Electrodermal activity measurement provides athletes with new information

Different kinds of physiological measurement systems have been used for a long time in top sports. Wearable devices have made exercise tracking easy for everyone.

Heart rate monitoring is the most used measurement in sports. It was developed by an Australian physician Robert Treffene for swim exercising. In Finland hear rate monitor was invented by the Polar Electro founder, professor Seppo Säynäjäkangas in 1975.

Today there is a huge variety of equipment for hear rate monitoring. The most accurate ones still measure from chest, either with a band or with taped sensors. Wrist worn trackers are comfortable to wear and they have largely displaced chest bands especially with non-professional exercisers. The accuracy of wrist worn trackers has been improved in past years, but it suffers especially at high heart rates.

Heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV) and electrodermal activity (EDA)

Analysing heart rate gives a good view of physical strain. With different algorithms it is possible to understands also recovery, sleep and stress.

Heart rate variability (HRV) has been lately brought up especially in measuring non-physical load. There are challenges, as at high heart rates the algorithms struggle to understand what happens: is the person physically at rest, but nervous (e.g. about a soon-to-start exam), or is it now about physical exercise? Here the accelerometers, present in all of the trackers, are of help. These components can detect whether a person is moving or is at rest, and much more about movement directions and pace.

The electrodermal activity (EDA) measurement brings interesting new information to analyse performance of an athlete. This does not tell about heart, but about sympathetic nervous system activation through sweat gland reactions of skin. Skin is the only organ that is purely innervated by the sympathetic nervous system. The EDA measurement is very sensitive to emotional and cognitive stress, and it has been used in psychological research already for over 100 years. Only lately it has become available for consumers.

The Moodmetric smart ring measures electrodermal activity. The ring is comfortable to wear and it is thus well suited for continuous, long term measurement. Only a sufficiently long measurement period gives a full picture on stress, how it is generated and how recovery happens during weeks, months and even years.

Both top sports, and going after personal goals in exercising benefit of stress load related information. It is good to understand what sources of stress or recovery might affect the performance. For instance, cognitive load of a professional athlete might be less than for someone who need to have a day job to finance the sports career. The professional athlete can probably exercise more, as there is more time for recovery. The results and performance are affected by emotional and cognitive load, if there is no time to unwind.

Read more: Moodmetric-measurement in research

Moodmetric will participate SMASH-sports event in Helsinki the 28-29th November, come to meet us and test the smart ring!

Contact:
Niina Venho
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+358 40 710 4087

Top athletes´ mental load studied by a physiological measurement

Pertti Ratilainen has been a mental trainer for top athletes now for ten years. He guides individuals to reach their goals by utilizing their personal strengths and characteristics. Since the beginning of 2017 he has measured himself with the Moodmetric smart ring to better understand his own cognitive load. The Moodmetric measurement has been his tool to help also his customers now for several months.

Interest in the workings of a sportsman´s mind comes from decades of active life. Ratilainen has been a keen ice hockey player and golfer for most part of his life, and since ten years a coach helping the players with the non-physical side of the training.

His customers include as well people from business life. Managers and experts set their targets high but often need to work under pressure, which compares well to top sports.

Golf coaching benefits from the Moodmetric measurement

Pertti Ratilainen has worked for four years with Anssi Kankkonen as a coach for over 15 year old golf talents at the Kankkonen-Numminen Golf Academy.

Together they find ways to help young players to find their own optimal alertness level, and to understand how it affects their results. They have applied both the Moodmetric continuous measurement and the real time stress level observation during the round.

Ratilainen studies the Moodmetric measurement data together with the young players. The target is to see the connection between previous day and sleep, and the play next day. Also they look at immediate effects, as how one bad strike affects the next.

Golf is a very sensitive sports, where the player´s stress level affects the success of the round. High stress level has a negative impact on fine motor skills and the playing easily suffers. The player needs to learn to recover from a bad strike and to relax and focus for the next. Ratilainen reminds, that there is a long time between the holes that players needs to manage with their own, sometimes disturbing, thoughts.

– We have done tests where the player wears the Moodmetric ring, and I follow close by the real-time stress level on a smart phone screen. I see the rising numbers immediately and can intervene. For instance, if I see numbers getting to the red zone, I take the player aside for a moment and discuss to calm the situation. When the person is relaxed enough, the next shot is significantly better.

Taking the stress level into account

Ratilainen considers the alertness / arousal of an athlete crucial when targeting to success. The Moodmetric measurement gives him the needed tool: it shows the level with a practical index from 0 to 100. Low numbers indicate a calm mind, high figures positive or negative stress. Excitement means being extremely alert, and has an impact on a person just as fear or anxiety.

Personality and individual features of people have always interested Ratilainen. He wants to help his customers to better understand the sources of emotional and cognitive load. – For me, a round of golf in a good company always brings the best results. Being in interaction relaxes me. But there are also players who get very distracted of chatting.

High sensitive persons have become an important customer segment for Ratilainen. They are more easily than others affected by their surroundings and people. As they easily gather cognitive and emotional load, it is a continuous task for them to find ways to recover enough and rest their mind.

Ratilainen also wants to point out the changes in our daily environment: – We are not adapted to sit the whole day instead of physical work. We do not realize  how much mental load we are getting instead of doing heavy bodily work. Before people went bed in the evening and fell asleep immediately because of physical tiredness. Today we do not know when to rest and how, as the strain is more inside our heads.

Taking care of personal mental wellbeing is the platform for success.

-Optimal performance can only be reached with the right amount of stress and continuously managing the total mental load, sums Pertti Ratilainen up.

 

Pertti Ratilainen wore the Moodmetric smartring while playing golf this summer. Below the best and worst round shown by the Moodmetric app, considering his own feeling and the result. The measurement data reflects this well: there needs to be a certain level positive stress, but very high levels destroy the game.