Competition anxiety and stress can be detrimental to athletes in any sport. New research in The British Journal of Sports Medicine examined the practice of mindfulness meditation on pre-competition stress in elite shooters. Researchers evaluated 96 male elite air pistol shooters during a four-week period of mindfulness meditation practice. Measures of salivary cortisol were taken as a physiological marker of pre-competition stress. Researchers asserted that, “salivary cortisol reliably reflect levels of unbound cortisol in the blood, and raised levels of cortisol have been found to be associated with stress.”
After four weeks of mindful meditation researchers found there was a significant decrease in levels of salivary cortisol, and there was a significant increase in shooting performance scores. It is also important to note that the test group of elite shooters evaluated in the study, still demonstrated the positive effects of the mindfulness meditation and the competitive performance improvements at the six-month follow up. Alternative therapies including meditation should be included in any sports training program to enhance and increase mood, performance, concentration and lower stress levels.