Cognitive training is still a fairly new concept, and it likely will not become a part of every athlete’s training regimen immediately–but it truly is an emerging market.
As with most industries, there is a culture within athletic training; there has been a set way of doing things for decades, and it is impossible to change a culture overnight. But, a culture can be changed over time, and it has been seen before in the fitness industry.
In the 1950s and 1960s, gyms and fitness centers were mainly just a place for men to workout and work on bodybuilding. This was also around the same time that Jack LaLanne, “The Godfather of Modern Fitness,” first aired The Jack LaLanne Show, which would go on to educate the American public about health and fitness for the next 30 years. In the late 1960s, jogging became popularized in the U.S., and one of the country’s first fitness chains, Gold’s Gym, was opened in Venice Beach, California.
Over the next few decades, additional fitness centers would begin to take part in this cultural revolution, as gyms such as 24 Hour Fitness and LA Fitness were also founded and began to grow in popularity (Clark, Sutton, & Lucette, 2014). During the 1980s, in addition to fitness chains and franchises popping up all over the country, corporate gyms within office buildings became widespread as companies began to realize the endless benefits of physical fitness on employee productivity, well-being, and longevity. In the 1990s, even more fitness chains would emerge (e.g. Equinox, Lifetime Fitness, Virgin Active), and eventually going to the gym for daily workouts would gradually become a part of everyday life for most Americans.
Physical fitness was not always a major aspect of daily life in the U.S. like it is today, but over time, it gradually became part of our culture. The same thing is happening with cognitive training, and an athletic performance revolution is about to erupt. Not many people are aware of just how long cognitive training has been taking place, as it has mostly been used behind the scenes, but different technologies and techniques have been used for decades in professional sports–and have had significant positive effects. For example, it was recently revealed that Michael Jordan had secretly used strobe light training during his time with the Chicago Bulls to slow down the game, pick up visual cues, and help him focus better at the foul line. Recently, many prominent and successful professional athletes and teams have publicly stated their use of cognitive training technology: Matt Ryan, the 2016 NFL MVP uses NeuroTracker; Steph Curry, the 2015/2016 NBA MVP uses strobe glasses; Tom Brady, 5x Super Bowl Champion uses BrainHQ. It is not a coincidence that these particular athletes, (who are also not necessarily the biggest, fastest, or strongest), are dominating the competition in their respective sports. They have an edge over the opposition.
This cognitive training culture shift is not happening overnight, either. It has been in the works for many years, as researchers discovered the process of neuroplasticity, and continue to gather substantial data showing its effectiveness. Today, new companies have developed (and continue to develop) cutting-edge technology based on this concept of neuroplasticity. As the public becomes increasingly educated on the uses and effects of cognitive training on performance, people will become less skeptical about incorporating new methods into their training regimens. It is only a matter of time.
Clark, M., Sutton, B. G., & Lucette, S. (2014). NASM essentials of personal fitness training.
Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.