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Mental fatigue and the effects on sport

Do you sometimes feel tired and drained? Do you find your training particularly difficult at that moment, even though you have integrated sufficient regeneration phases? If your physical condition is not the problem, what could it be?

According to recent findings, fatigue exists physically as well as mentally and can affect your perceived motivation. However, the effect of mental stress on physical performance is often underestimated, even though mental stress prior to exercise has a measurable negative effect on performance. This is because mentally fatigued individuals exhibit decreased reaction times and an increased tendency to be distracted, which could be a source and cause of injury during sport. Similarly, mental fatigue negatively affects endurance performance, visual and psychomotor skills. Perceived effort in performing physical activity is also increased under mental fatigue. Your training level does not matter in that case, because you cannot train yourself out of mental fatigue with a good conditional training status.

What is mental fatigue?

Mental fatigue is caused by prolonged cognitive activities and challenges. Subjectively, fatigue is described as a feeling of:

- Fatigue

- drowsiness

- lack of attention

- lack of energy

Whereby the fatigue state is felt more strongly the longer a cognitive activity lasts.

The mental fatigue state is described as an acute response to sustained mental effort. In this regard, the fatigue response is distinguished from chronic fatigue and cognitive impairment associated with numerous diseases. Furthermore, this condition can be considered multifactorial (caused by many influences), as fatigue can be classified as a response to psychological, environmental, and emotional influencing factors.

What makes you tired?

In addition to cognitive tasks at work, your brain is flooded with stimuli these days from constant companions like smartphones and other screens. Engagements through video games, social media, or Netflix on the couch in the evening stress the visually variable stimulation of your eyes, which increases your mental fatigue. These media are designed to keep your attention, making it hard to get away from them. In addition, it has been proven that using your smartphone during your lunch break worsens your work performance afterwards, compared to putting it aside during this time. Furthermore, social media and smartphone use are now associated with depression and poor sleep quality.

What can you do about it?

First of all, you should recognize your mental fatigue and admit it to yourself. Important key points are lack of concentration, listlessness towards things you normally like and reduction of your own performance.

To counteract your mental fatigue, try to avoid unnecessary mental stress and give your visual system a break every day. After strenuous cognitive tasks, try to recover sufficiently afterwards.

5 points that can help you prevent mental fatigue

1. mental fatigue is real and can make you sick in the long run. Therefore, start eliminating things that are unnecessary such as social media, watching TV, unnecessary shopping, etc.

Turn off unimportant notifications on your smartphone so you don't get distracted all the time. Try to automate things such as rent payments, direct debits, etc. Also delegate things that you can hand in, such as repairs, etc.

3. media, Netflix, video games and Youtube are not recreation as they irritate your visual system. To recover mentally, it is not necessary to meditate. For example you can focus on a wall far away for 10 minutes. Even this simple exercise will help increase your cognitive productivity.

4. Walks in nature can help you recover mentally or just do nothing with total silence and closed eyes.

5. in order to get the most out of your training, try to mentally rest before your training session and reduce unnecessary stimulation. You are welcome to use our relaxation room for this purpose.

We wish you much success in reducing your mental fatigue and gaining mental recovery.

Your inicio Team


De Lima-Junior, D. et al. (2021). Effects of smartphone use before resistance exercise on inhibitory control, heart rate variability, and countermovement jump. Applied Neuropsychology: Adult.

Kölling, S., Loch, F. & Kellmann, M. (2019). Mentale Ermüdung und Erholung. In Güllich A. & Krüger, M. (Hrsg.), Sport in Kultur und Gesellschaft. Springer-Verlag, Deutschland.

Söhnlein, K. & Mayer, J. (2019). Mentale Ermüdung im Leistungssport – ein Ansatz zur Belastungssteuerung. Sportphysio, 7, 95-99.

Taeger, F. (2021). Mental Deload – mehr Motivation und Leistung dank gezielter Auszeit. Body Pioneer, 4, 47-50.

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