What Determines Reaction Time and How to Improve It

What Determines Reaction Time?

The ability to react quickly depends on many factors such as:

Your age (as your body gets weaker with each year) Your physical condition (your muscle mass, bone density, blood pressure etc. are all affected) Your mental state (you have been trained to think faster when you are excited or stressed) Your environment (the situation you find yourself in is also a factor)

There are several things which affect your reaction times. They include:

How fast you blink (how much oxygen does it take to get rid of the brain’s signals?

) How fast your heart beats (can be increased by running, jogging, swimming, cycling etc. ) How fast your breathing occurs (can be increased by taking deep breaths, coughing, sneezing etc.) How fast your muscles contract and relax (can be increased by exercising, stretching, yoga etc. )

In addition to these factors there are other things like:

Your level of fitness (are you fit enough to exercise at a high intensity? Where do you tend to get out of breath?

) How much sleep have you had (if you haven’t had enough, your brain won’t be as sharp) What you’ve been eating (if you’re lacking certain nutrients, this could affect how your brain functions) How well you are trained (have you been trained in the areas of reflexes, reaction times etc. ? If not, it’ll be harder for you to improve) How nervous or scared you are (if you’ve got something dangerous lurking around, your heart will start beating faster)

Reaction Time Exercises

There are several ways in which you can increase your reaction time:

1. Play sports.

The more times you play a sport, the more likely you are to react quickly and efficiently. The more you’re involved in sports, the quicker you’ll start reacting.

2. Play video games.

This is especially true for fighting games. The more you play, the quicker you are to react. This can also be a great way of training your mind to think faster and anticipate your opponents’ moves.

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3. Use your peripheral vision.

As you know, your peripheral vision is much better than your direct vision. Start of by looking at something straight on. Slowly move your view from the direct center of what you’re looking at and see how much you can see.

Then do the reverse; start from the edge of your peripheral vision and slowly move towards the middle. Then shift your direct view in the same fashion and see how much more you can see in the center. As you continue to do this over and over again, your peripheral vision will get better and better.

4. Keep your mind occupied.

The more you think about something, the quicker your brain gets used to thinking in that manner. For this reason, it is important to keep your mind occupied with other things such as video games or other activities which require quick thinking.

5. Breathe properly.

I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times but BREATHING is an essential part of life. Not only does it keep you alive, it also keeps your brain functioning at full potential. Count.

As you know, when you get nervous or scared your brain works faster. This can be a good thing if you’re counting bullets in a gun or the number of opponents that are rushing at you with a knife; it’s not so good when you’re trying to slow yourself down! Try counting backwards from 100 by 7s. If you start to get into the 80s and feel as if you’re going too quickly, just keep counting 88, 87, 86 etc. When you’re under stress (fighting or otherwise), take a moment to breathe properly. This will help you stay calm and think more clearly.

6. Stretch.

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Stretching is especially important for gamers as it keeps your hands flexible and nimble. It also helps your body in general. Stretch from time to time (even in between gaming sessions) and see how your body feels after a period of time.

7. Practise, practise, practise.

As you get slower, your heart rate will slow down and so will you.

6. Stay focused. Not only do you need to focus your eyes on an object such as a leaf, you also need to focus your mind on the same object.

Start by looking at a stationary object such as a leaf, then shift your view to different parts of the leaf slowly such as the top, bottom, left, right sides etc. As with any skill, the more you practise the better you’ll become. It doesn’t matter if it’s a musical instrument, the guitar for example. In time, you’ll start to see improvement in your technique and see that you’re able to play the chords and melodies with ease. The more you practise the easier it will be for you to reach that ‘plateau’ of sorts where your fingers will be able to effortlessly glide along the strings and produce music.

8. Next, do the same thing but with an eye movement pattern. Start at the top left of the leaf and move your eyes slowly to the bottom right; then move to the top right and move your eyes slowly to the bottom left.

Then start again. This trains your brain to look at things in an unconventional manner and trains your brain to focus on specific objects or things in order to anticipate what they’ll do next.

7. Relax! Be aware of your body.

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I’m sure you’ve heard the stories of how people lose control over their body during a crisis; they may even lose control of their bladder. Sadly, this is true. If you’re ever in a dangerous situation where you feel threatened, stay aware of your surroundings and remain calm. Try not to get ‘caught up’ in the moment because it can get you killed.

8. Be aware of your movements.

The more aware you are of your own body and the way it moves and reacts in different situations, the better. When you go to sit or stand up, pay attention to every little movement that your body is making. This will help you stay in control during a crisis; it will also keep you alert and ready for anything that might happen.

9. You can use the various parts of your brain at will.

I’m sure you’ve heard the stories of how people used parts of their brains that ‘died’ during a horrific accident, such as a plane crash where the pilot’s brain is severely damaged. If your brain was severely damaged and you had to have parts of it removed to save your life, it doesn’t mean that you’re less of a person. Instead, it means that you can use parts of your brain that were previously dormant or nonexistent.

10. The various forms of communication are: sound, touch, sight, taste and smell. You’re probably very aware of sound and how it can affect you.


Sources & references used in this article:

Effect of fatigue on reaction time, response time, performance time, and kick impact in taekwondo roundhouse kick by J Sant’Ana, E Franchini, V da Silva… – Sports …, 2017 – Taylor & Francis

Sprint starts and the minimum auditory reaction time by MTG Pain, A Hibbs – Journal of sports sciences, 2007 – shapeamerica.tandfonline.com

How can you best measure reaction times? by E Brenner, JBJ Smeets – Journal of motor behavior, 2018 – Taylor & Francis

Stimulus information as a determinant of reaction time. by R Hyman – Journal of experimental psychology, 1953 – psycnet.apa.org

Economic evaluation of the photo-Fenton process. Mineralization level and reaction time: the keys for increasing plant efficiency by LSJ Jordá, MMB Martín, EO Gómez, AC Reina… – Journal of hazardous …, 2011 – Elsevier

Motion processing in peripheral vision: Reaction time and perceived velocity by PD Tynan, R Sekuler – Vision research, 1982 – Elsevier

Attention, resource allocation, and communication research: What do secondary task reaction times measure, anyway? by L Annie, MD Basil – Annals of the International Communication …, 1998 – Taylor & Francis

Express-saccades of the monkey: effect of daily training on probability of occurrence and reaction time by B Fischer, R Boch, E Ramsperger – Experimental Brain Research, 1984 – Springer