The eyes have it: good balance, hitting a ball and intense concentration.

Posted by & filed under Exercise and Training, Health and Fitness.

There we go: top one blurry, the lower one after a bit of staring practice.

There we go: top one blurry, the lower one after a bit of staring practice.

People generally come to a personal trainer to get into shape – for the ultimate clothes off event or to be able to charge about and win.  And so it is expected that much time will be spent doing sit ups, squats, rushing on the treadmill – or waggling heavy ropes up and down.  In fact the importance our brain puts on inputs that feed our performance – to run more quickly or hit that ball more accurately – puts body movements last.  To be top grade at anthing, including making money, the most important input comes from our eyes:  about 45%;  then comes balance: about 35% and finally inputs from the body: about 20%.  And this is for someone in excellent mental and physical shape.

In truth, most people totter into a personal trainer with a bit of back ache, a sore knee, possibly glasses/contacts and the balancing ability of a drunken armadillo.  Well, lets do a bit of stretching of the tight muscles and everything should improve?  How can it? The input from the eyes and inner ears is still crap.

So test the balance: stand on one leg,  shut the eyes and hold it for 30 secs.  How was that?   One leg better than the other?

Standing on one leg with eyes shut brings home the importance of the eyes in balancing.  In the brain, the input from our eyes and inner ears, our balancing system, links inextricably.

The first skill to develop in the eyes is gaze stabilisation.  Why? When the eyes move, even slightly, it affects our balance.  Since the eyes and our inner ears link closely, when we look up with our eyes only, for instance, we should fall backwards a bit.  When we look left, the whole body should turn left a bit.

Standing normally, looking fixedly at a target, the eyes should not wobble, water, eyelids flutter – nor should we start sweating or hyperventilating.  Ideally the eyes are completely still for about 30 secs.  The faulty wobble is tiny, so if giving this a go, its best to get someone else to watch your eyeballs carefully for tiddly flickers.

Therefore if our eyes having a wee wobble when we are looking at something, our whole body subtly wiggles about.  We lose spinal integrity. Making balance harder than it should be – balance even when just upright in normal life.

Also when we are reading, if the eyes jiggle about, it makes it awfully hard work for our brain, making concentration difficult.

As any tennis player knows, they are constantly being told to keep their eyes on the ball.  The first thing to develop is the ability to hold the eyes absolutely still on that whizzing ball rather than get frustrated at an apparent inability carry out instructions.

In this country, generally people are way too soft about getting older, giving up activities, citing age, sore knees and so on.  A good place to start the battle to remain blisteringly active into geriatricdom is to practice gaze stabilisition.  Then we will not trip over, we will remain satisfyingly high on the squash ladder, we can concentrate on complex decisions, documents or books.

So instead of spending all the time stretching, squatting and benching, add a little time doing a bit of staring.

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