Photo of Carlin Miller

Research probes benefits of meditation for female athletes

Could a meditation app help female athletes reduce stress, perform better, and recover faster from concussions?

UWindsor psychology professor Carlin Miller intends to find out with a research project that will study varsity athletes from Lancer sports teams.

"Student athletes, like many post-secondary students, report increasing levels of stress and distress," said Dr. Miller. "But student-athletes face additional pressures we don’t often realize — the impact their performance could have on the financial well-being of their coaching staff, the potential for being replaced by a newly recruited player, and the difficulty of balancing the time demands of school and sports."

Miller has been awarded a $5,000 grant from the University to conduct the study. The grant is one of four recently awarded under the Research Grants for Women program. Other recipients are learning specialist Zareen Amtul for a project looking into post-pandemic distress in international students, School of Dramatic Arts director Tina Pugliese who is looking into e-mentoring for undergraduates, and philosophy professor Catherine Hundleby for argumentation research.

Miller hopes to recruit 50 female Lancers to take part in a 12-week mindfulness program delivered through an app developed by Mobio Interactive. Participants will continue to have free access to the app even after the study is over.

Mindfulness is the state of paying attention to the present moment without judgment and attachment. Mindfulness interventions have been shown to be effective in reducing stress, alleviating pain, and improving overall well-being.

Miller said she wants to study how the program affects athletes who have suffered concussions.

"We’re expecting to find that those who meditate recover faster than those who don’t."

And she is focusing on women since they have been a traditionally understudied group.

Participants will fill out short monthly surveys during the study. The app will track the number of times the participant has logged on and for how long, and monitor heart rate changes during the sessions.

Miller’s project flows from a small study she conducted in 2018. Participants in that study complained about the inconvenience of attending meditation classes, giving Miller the idea, even before the pandemic, of offering the sessions online.

Sessions can last as long as 20 minutes. Participants will be encouraged to meditate every day at the roughly the same time.

Master’s student Taylor McEachnie will help run the study, along with undergraduate students from Miller’s lab.

Miller said she hopes to begin recruiting athletes through their coaches and have the study wrapped up by spring 2023. She plans to apply for federal funding to expand it to at least three other university campuses.

—Sarah Sacheli