Mindfulness training and repeated cold exposure affects cold tolerance but not motor skill performance


Motor performance is impaired when individuals are exposed to cold, and little is understood about how this is ameliorated. Our purpose was to determine whether mindfulness training combined with repeated cold exposure could improve motor performance and tolerance in cold conditions. Twenty-four participants were randomly assigned to either a cold exposure training group or a mindfulness + cold exposure training group. Participant's baseline performances were assessed on timed grooved pegboard and knot untying tasks, and a cold tolerance test, which was the maximum time participants would voluntarily submerge their hands in 2 °C water. Next, participants performed the training for their specific group. The cold exposure group submerged their hand in cold water 8 times for 90 seconds with 2 minute rewarming, while the mindfulness + cold exposure group performed identical training but was concurrently read a mindfulness script during each exposure. Following training, participant's hands were warmed and they performed a maximum duration exposure to cold test, which was immediately followed by performance of the grooved pegboard and knot untying tasks. Both groups improved their grooved pegboard and knot untying performance from baseline. However, maximum cold exposure duration was significantly greater in the mindfulness + cold exposure training group compared to the cold exposure group. Mindfulness did not influence motor performance but increased tolerance to cold. This study demonstrates that individuals who are repeatedly exposed to cold/wet environments could increase their cold tolerance by implementing mindfulness techniques. These findings may have implications for cold water survival.