Sun | May 26, 2019

Zen and the game of golf

Published:Sunday | April 21, 2019 | 12:17 AMJelena Damjanovic - Contributor

The temperatures may seem undecided, but the calendar does not lie. Golf season is here, and scientists say there may be a very simple tool to give your game a boost. According to new research from the University of Toronto Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education and Aix-Marseille University, up to seven minutes of meditation is all it takes for your game to reap benefits.

Before going out on an indoor (synthetic) putting green, the study participants had their brain wave activity measured with a portable electroencephalogram (EEG) device called MUSETM. After a first set of 30 putts, participants were given a seven-minute break. One group was told to meditate using the MUSETM headbands, which can provide real-time auditory feedback about brain activity. The second group was told to meditate without the auditory neuro-feedback, and the third group was told to just relax. After, the researchers recorded the study participants’ brain activity again and sent them back out on the green for another 30 putts.

“I didn’t think a seven-minute meditation was going to do anything,” says Sadiya Abdulrabba, a fourth-year kinesiology student, who conducted the study under the supervision of Luc Tremblay, associate professor and vice dean of research at KPE, Katherine Tamminen, assistant professor at KPE, and Laurence Mouchnino, a researcher at Aix-Marseille University.

“A lot of the research I referenced talks about eight weeks of intense meditation, so I thought, ‘What’s seven minutes of meditation going to do for someone who is not an experienced meditator or golfer?’”

Better performance

However, the data analysis showed that the two groups that meditated with and without the neuro-feedback significantly reduced the type of brain activity associated with voluntary movement control as compared to the group that didn’t meditate. These reductions in movement-related brain waves were associated with putting-performance improvements for the meditation groups.

“We found that meditation with and without neuro-feedback resulted in better performance,” says Abdulrabba. “The group that did not meditate didn’t significantly reduce the activity of their movement-related brain waves and showed no improvement in their putting precision.

“So, before getting on the green, maybe you should sit down for a few minutes and just meditate mindfully for best results,” says Abdulrabba, who benefited from the Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA) from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to conduct this study.

Abdulrabba suggests sitting close to where you plan to putt, making sure you’re in a comfortable position.

“Try to relax the muscles on your face, shoulders, arms, trunk, and legs. And, when your mind starts to wander, try to return the focus on your breathing.”

Seven minutes later, instead of golfing in the rough, you could be playing in the zone.

Courtesy U of T News, Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, University of Toronto.