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How to improve reaction time

Taking time to improve your reaction speed will benefit your athletic performances and other aspects of your daily life.



What is Reaction Time

Reaction time is the speed of your response to an external stimuli. And this starts with the brain and nervous system, both of which control our bodies. Before your body starts to move, the brain has to give the commands. 

Does the size or form of the external stimuli matter? No, because even the slightest stimuli is sufficient. 

The stimuli can either be seeing, hearing or touch. Think of a tap on the shoulder, or sensing that someone is approaching behind you. Your sensory receptors will send an electrical impulse to your brain which will then compute what action is required. Your brain will then send out signals to your muscles via efferent motor neurons informing the parts of your body that need to act, how to act. Only after your body parts receive the instructions, do they begin to move.  


What is the difference between reflex and reaction?

Reflexes are involuntary movements to a stimuli. As they are continually computing in the background they will not diminish through lifestyle choices or mental drop-off. 

Reaction time deals with voluntary movements that you have to consciously make. Your reaction can quickly fall off with time caused by poor health, lifestyle choices and degeneration of brain power. 


Ways to improve reaction time

Reaction speed training comprise of exercises that will train your brain to produce the correct response to a stimuli and to speed up this response time. Initially some will seem easier than others but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the easier is a better fit for you.

Fast reaction exercises are challenging, rewarding and motivating whilst offering variety in to your training, refreshing your day to day routine.


Training a specific movement or action

Repeating a specific sports movement is a sure way of improving your reaction time, which is one of the main reasons serious athletes perform the same drill over and over. 

You are training your central nervous system to respond naturally and fluidly to a specific stimulus. The more you train these movements, the stronger the connection between brain and body becomes. 

To maintain your improvements, like all types of training, you need to be consistent in your training. Reaction time will decline with age hence the importance of constantly topping up your exercises.


Examples of Reaction Time training

Reaction Time: As performed by sprinters who want to improve their speed of reaction to the starting gun

Plyometrics: Contact Sports like Rugby and Football aim to increase the use of muscle force in a split second. Exercises may include jump squats and lateral hops.

Over Speed: Practising a stimuli at a much faster speed than normal. Becoming comfortable with an extremely fast stimulation will increase your average reaction time. Cricketers, Tennis and Baseball players will have balls delivered to them at very high speeds. NFL and Soccer players will team up with faster teammates when performing drills.

Meditation: Deep breathing and stay calmScreaming fans, couching bystander, a dummy move from an opponent. In everyday life, a driver maybe distracted by the radio, a cat running across the pavement, at a time when an unexpected hazard appears. 






Cognitive Training: This type of training is one of the most effect methods to improve reaction times as they are targeted for brain rather than other parts of your body.  

Cognitive Training Video: Imagines are shown on a screen and you are demanding your brain to respond to the visual stimulants. This creates new neural paths that your brain can use to communicate with your central nervous system.

Cognitive Training Lights: A series of strobe lights will randomly flash on and requires fast reaction times to respond to the light source.

Cognitive Training Traditional: These include card games, crossword puzzles, chess, sudoku, jigsaw puzzles, mathematical problems, learning a new language or instrument.

Cognitive Training Interesting Fact: Some studies have shown that using your less dominant hand of leg to complete everyday tasks significantly strengthen your neurons and will decrease your response time. 

Reaction balls: Improves your reaction time, concentration, and hand-eye coordination simultaneously. Balls are bounced on uneven surfaces which make the balls unpredictable in their bounce. Shape and size will depend on throwing and kicking purposes.

Over compensation training: Trail running, Mountain Biking will put you in an environment where the terrain will suddenly change, asking your body to make sudden, dynamic adjustments. 



Study after study shows that being dehydrated starves your brain and can have a huge effect on your reaction time. If your brain is not functioning because a lack of hydration, it will impair the speed in which it sends signals. 

If your brain tells you to take a drink, it is usually a bit late. So knowing your own hydration requirements will help you develop a strong hydration strategy is important as taking fluids on board after that point is a catch-up situation. 


Sufficient sleep

We all require different amounts of sleep to maximise our performances. And probably, we have all experienced not having enough sleep and our brains feel foggy the next day. 

Your body has circadian rhythm which is connected to your very own on-board 24hour clock {the circadian pacemaker}. This clock sends signals to regulate activity throughout your body and alerts it to up and coming functions. 

Sufficient sleep will keep the rhythm at a constant beat which will not disrupt the performance of your body. 



A poor diet will have a negative effect on your reaction times. 

Poor response: Too much food and a poor balance of vitamins and nutrients and your body will struggle under the weight of it all.

Short term gains: Taken in moderation {and from natural sources and not from sugary drinks}, caffeine improves your energy levels and can stimulate your brain in so many different ways. When you consume caffeine, your body releases adrenaline hormones which effects the amount of oxygen supplied to your brain. As oxygen levels rise, you will feel more alert and reaction times will speed up.  

Long term gains: Your brain will benefit from an increase in polyphenol ladened antioxidants which may help to keep the brain safe from stress. Antioxidants are also famous for fighting aging which results in brain degeneration.    

Vitamin K, which can found in greens like broccoli, kale and spinach is known to improve brain function.



Some studies have shown that highly stimulating video games may reduce the ability to concentrate in less-stimulating environments. So it is worth while to remember that completing & repeating sports specific movement is far more important when mastering the motor skills needed in any sport.

Increasing your reaction time will enrich all parts of your life, sporting and otherwise. Embrace and have fun with the new concepts like the cognitive training, knowing that different exercises will depend on the individual and type of sport.


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