Study looking at the long-term effects of physical challenges on veterans

David Shearer, Professor in Elite Performance Psychology at the University of South Wales, is providing sport psychology support to the Mind Over Matter team, who are currently training for the 2019 Race Across America (RAAM).

He is also advising on a research programme led by Leadership Challenges, which organises RAAM, which is looking into the long-term effects of physical challenges on veterans’ psychological wellbeing.

The University of South Wales says the Race Across America (RAAM), which runs from June 14th to June 23th, involves riders travelling three thousand miles, starting in California. They will climb up to one hundred and seventy five thousand feet and cross twelve states, before finishing in Maryland.

According to organisers “Competitors are pushed through the pain barrier time and again, as they cover extreme terrain and endure hostile climes.”

The team of eight riders being supported by David Shearer are aged between their mid twenties to their late fifties and include serving military personnel and veterans with a range of psychological and physical challenges. They will work together as a team, cycling in day and night shifts, to complete the journey in just nine days.

David Shearer said “The research is studying the impact of extreme physical challenge during the race itself, during the training and preparation before it, and then for a 12-month period afterwards. Many participants taking part in such extreme challenges get what is often known as ‘post-expedition blues’, but, with the right support, the hope is that such challenges can develop a positive mindset and a provide a greater degree of resilience for daily life.”

He has worked with the team members to collect baseline measurements for the study. Their progress is being monitored to see if they gain any tangible benefits and transferable skills they can use in other areas of their lives, such as employment and education. He is advising Leadership Challenges on the research processes and will be supporting the Mind Over Matter Team during the event.

One of the team’s major aims, according to its founder and captain Major Sally Orange, is to raise awareness of mental health. She said “USW has developed a strong relationship with the military, and we hope that working with Leadership Challenges and advising them on their research will lead the way for future projects. By understanding more about the effects of this type of challenge on mental health, we hope to help Leadership Challenges develop ways that events, such as the Race Across America, can improve resilience and have lasting positive benefits.”

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