Sport | Columnists
Sean Van Staden
I love good, impactful technology.
Remember the days when you had a step counter that literally just measured the steps you took in a day?
The evolution of that device has moved into the digital version with an accelerometer which allowed a three dimensional, more accurate way of capturing a true step.
Now look at the latest devices and fitness watches which have revolutionised and gamified how we look at exercise and fitness.
You even get rewarded from medical aids with wellness programmes.
It is just crazy that in such a short space of time how far technology in the fitness industry has come.
Not all technology is sound but when you come across new tech and all arrows are pointing to something great then it must be explored, probed, critiqued and improved.
That is exactly what happened to the “old school” step counter.
I found something amazing and it landed at my office literally two days ago and I am just giddy to test it out myself.
This product is called the Halo Neuroscience 2 and it claims through 4 000 peer reviews, yes, 4 000 studies that say it will improve your skill level up to 20% faster than learning a skill the old way.
Think about trying to learn to play the piano or learning to kick a ball through a tyre like David Beckham or pushing more explosive weight in a gym.
This can all be done faster through a brain stimulating headset.
It sounds too good to be true but let me rewind a little.
In my business I am always researching what is new and exciting from overseas to help my athletes have the cutting edge skills and technology.
We introduced pre-habilitation to seven-year-olds five years before the Stormers Super Rugby team even started using it.
I came across Michael Johnson’s performance academy a few years back and they have been working with some of the world’s elite athletes and new tech.
One of their videos had athletes with wires and electro conducting pads attached to their heads and they were undergoing research in activating parts of the brain responsible for motor control.
Two years ago MJP came out to South Africa for a workshop and again they said that they have successfully helped athletes improve their performance by up to 12%.
That is huge for an elite athlete because they are already so far advanced at pushing at their threshold.
This year Nalo Neuro 2 is going crazy around the world.
In order to understand Halo, you first need to understand how movement is learned.
When catching a ball for the first time, you can remember being very clumsy and fumbling the ball quite often.
A signal is sent to the brain to the muscles which are responsible for catching the ball and then performing the activity.
That signal is very weak and so too is the feedback coming back to the brain.
But the important thing to remember here is that with repetition, your brain learns, and that signal gets stronger.
Think of old school internet dial up connect and now think of a fibre line.
Both are performing the same task of transmitting data back and further, but one is superior.
When you are aged between four and 13, your brain has a heightened state of neuroplasticity which means that your brain is ready to learn everything and anything, but in small quantities.
As you get older that neuroplasticity stage becomes less heightened and more focused.
That is why you can learn three languages when you are young, something which is not as easy now.
Halo Sport, which was invented by neuroscientists some 15 years ago and has undergone all the clinical trials for safety, has introduced the first of its kind headset.
Halo sends a small electrical impulse to the motor cortex and places that part of the brain in a state of hyper plasticity, meaning a heightened state of arousal.
While performing your motor movement, e.g. learning to play piano, learning to kick accurately through the posts or learning to hit a golf ball better, skills can be learnt faster because the signals strength that is sent and received is stronger from the primed brain through Neuro activation.
Through repetition and quality skill learning, halo has had some astounding results.
Research done by Haung et al 2019 found that an increase in mean power output in repeated sprint cycling and cognitive out-through trials with a placebo-controlled study by 17%.
An independent researcher documents in Park et al 2019 to have found participants ran 15% longer at 80% VO2 max when received transcranial direct current stimulation with Halo Sport compared to the control group that did not.
If you have ever done a VO2 max test, picture that emoji with you holding your hands on your face. There is no faking a VO2 max test on any level.
This research and many others are opening up the doors to increase human potential and performance.
I will keep you posted on my golf score as I hack my way through a dozen social rounds per year with some driving range sessions.
I card between 96 to 102 on average.
Not great at all, but let’s see in the next few months what happens with my Halo.
Sean van Staden is a sport scientist. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanVStaden or visit advancedsp.co.za.
Last week’s column can be found here.
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