Elite endurance athletes have superior ability to resist mental fatigue, revealed a new study.
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For the study, the researchers compared the performance of 11 professional cyclists and nine recreational cyclists in various tests. The professional cyclists outperformed the recreational cyclists in a simulated time trial in the laboratory.
The study suggested that while the recreational cyclists slowed down after performing a computerized cognitive task to induce mental fatigue, the professional cyclists' time trial performance was not affected.
In addition, the professional cyclists performed better than the recreational cyclists in the task which measures 'inhibitory control' or willpower. This is not surprising as the ability to suffer is a major factor in the sport of cycling, the study suggested.
"The two effects go hand in hand, because becoming resistant to mental fatigue should bolster willpower during the latter stages of a competition such as the Tour de France," said Samuele Marcora, Professor, Kent's School of Sport and Exercise Sciences in the study published in journal PLOS ONE.
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Although largely hereditary, the researchers speculate that superior willpower and resistance to mental fatigue may be trained through hard physical training and demanding the lifestyle of an elite endurance athlete.