Performance bracelets have become a popular tool with many athletes, including professionals. With many options, it’s hard to tell which, if any, are useful. Researchers recently tested negative ion holographic bracelets on endurance performance in a Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study.
If you’re not yet familiar with this kind of performance jewelry, the idea isn’t as random as it may seem. There are reasons why both negative ion therapy and hologram therapy are thought to have positive health effects, and thus, may boost performance. These two types of therapies are often used separately, but in this study they were combined.
First, negative ions have been demonstrated to have immune-boosting effects, and also to improve focus and relaxation. This may be because they are found in nature in relatively high concentrations compared to an urban setting. These ions occur when the air is energized by light, friction (like from rain), or lightning. According to the researchers, rural air has thirty times the concentration of negative ions as urban air, and thus might help account for its perceived health benefits. Some people also propose that negative ions can beneficially affect energy flow (e.g., chi) throughout the body.
It is unclear, however, how negative ions in a bracelet would alter the air with enough significance to benefit an athlete. The known mechanisms for altering air ions tend to be very powerful. That’s not the kind of power you want on your wrist. One proposed mechanism is increased antioxidant activity, but these results seem to not hold true with a bracelet.
The hologram, on the other hand, does not seem to be as well founded a concept as the ions. There are claims that it improves energy flow, but as usual, this doesn’t really seem to mean a whole lot in terms of actual exercise science.
Each participant in the study underwent three different tests, which were separated by a week and done in random order. Each testing condition involved a treadmill test in which the participants either wore the negative ion hologram bracelet, another identical bracelet with neither technology, or no bracelet at all. The researchers then tested the VO2 max, VO2 at ventilatory threshold (the point at which your breathing rate spikes), and heart rate at the ventilatory threshold.
On comparing the three trials, the researchers found no differences. There was no physiological difference and no placebo-related psychological difference, either. The researchers noted that it’s possible there could have been a benefit to perceived exertion, antioxidants, or even chi, but this wasn’t discovered because the study was focused on actual performance.
If you’ve been wearing performance bracelets and they’ve been giving you the warm-fuzzies, then keep on wearing them. However, it seems as though there is no benefit that extends beyond perception.
1. Patrick Sells, et. al., “The Effect of a Negative Ion Holographic Bracelet on Maximal Aerobic Performance,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000483
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.