A short low intensity walk may be the best thing for our overall eye health. According to new research out of California, low intensity workouts help the brain better process visual information by stimulating increased neuron production in the visual cortex.
This test was conducted at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The main man behind the study, Dr. Tom Bullock, teaches psychology at the university.
All 18 participants were asked to wear a wireless heart rate monitor and an electroencephalogram (EEG). After they were all strapped in, the participants got on stationary bikes. Some of the participants were asked to pedal lightly, while others were asked to engage in a more high intensity workout session.
The researchers were able to test each participant's vision by placing a viewing task before them. Each of these viewing tasks had white and black bars on them. Volunteers in this study were asked during their workout session and during short breaks to identify the visual stimuli they say before them.
Professor Bullock's team took all the information from these heart and brain scans and ran them through complex computer models. These models allowed researchers to tell just how many visual neurons were activated for those engaged in either low intensity and high intensity workouts.
Surprisingly, the only group that saw a major improvement in visual acuity were those that engaged in low impact exercises. People who put their "petal to the metal" showed no improvement in overall visual processing.
This isn't the first time professors have discovered the benefits of exercise for vision. Other studies have looked into how fast neurons fire in the brains of flies and mice both while at rest and during bouts of physical activity. These tests suggested an increase in visual acuity during periods of high activity, and they were a major impetus for Dr. Bullock to conduct his own test on humans.
Although the link between moderate exercise and better vision is clear, doctors aren't sure exactly why this is the case. Some professors say the increase in visual cortex neurons may be due to the arousal stimulated by exercise. Others suggest this increase has to do with an evolutionary adaptation that conferred a competitive advantage to the human species.
Whatever the case may be, the main takeaway from this study is that anyone who engages in moderate exercise sessions will gain strong vision over time. Some doctors even believe a regular exercise session could ward off even the most serious eye diseases.
Barry Giesbrecht , another psychology professor at UC Santa Barbara, told reporters moderate exercise may be the best method to naturally boost the brain's ability to process visual information. He went on to suggest that low intensity workouts may be even better for our brains than meditation or brain training exercises.
Of course, exercise has numerous other benefits besides enhancing vision. Regular exercise has been shown to improve overall cognitive functions. Going for a walk everyday can also really help anyone affected by anxiety, depression, or sleep disorders. The added benefit of strengthened vision is just one more reason to get up and get moving.
Learn more about eye health at Eye Health Central.