Hi, I’m Dr Eric Cobb with Z-Health Performance and today we’re going to talk about using eye movements to improve balance. If you’re new to Z-Health, we’re a Brain-Based training company. We focus on educating professionals from all over the world so if you find this content interesting, subscribe.
Let’s get going! Obviously, if you have followed us for any length of time we say as athletes you need to be able to see well you need to be able to balance well, move well, and then integrate all those systems together. And I say athletes and that’s because we say everyone’s an athlete. So balance training is essential. There’s a ton of research about why it’s important that you can improve it with training and that as we do balance, not only do we improve our physical functioning but we also improve cognitive functioning. So we are constantly scanning literature trying to figure out what can we do to make balance training more effective and today we’re going to talk about eye movements.
So when you look at eye movements there are a variety of them the one that we’re going to focus on today is called a saccade. A saccade basically means I have two targets in front of me and I’m looking at one and then I very quickly shift to the other. Nothing exciting but it is a eye movement that we make thousands and thousands of times per day. Now what researchers recently found was that in looking at balance if we put someone on a force plate and we looked at the amount of sensation or basically the amount of contact from the bottom of their foot on this force plate, that if we had people do eye movements the amount of ground contact increased. That’s super important because basically whenever we’re trying to balance we’re moving through the world, we are reliant upon receptors on the bottom of our feet to tell us where we are and help us respond to whatever’s in the environment. So they did a bunch of testing and what they figured out was that if they have someone do three minutes of saccades at 120 beats per minute that it improved the amount of plantar surface area on that plate by almost 71% and that then translated into much better static balance. So for you if you want to add this into your training it’s really simple, you can test it to see if it works for you.
So you’re going to stand on one foot feet together, whatever’s challenging for you, maybe close your eyes, move your head around, I don’t care what you choose right now as a balance challenge but I want you to challenge yourself. So spend 30 seconds maybe just trying to stand on one foot while you’re moving the other leg around, doesn’t matter. Then you’re going to get into a comfortable stance you’re going to put two targets in front of you. Can be your fingers pencils whatever you want to put on the wall, it doesn’t matter. Set your phone for three minutes and then as fast and as accurately as you can you’re going to go back and forth with your eyes between those two targets at 120 beats per minute. Now once you’ve done the three minutes let yourself relax for a couple minutes and then go back and retest. What you may find is that what was challenging to you previously is now much easier. If you find that eye movements are super useful for you make sure to include them in your training program basically as a brain warm-up so that your balance training is more effective, alright? So horizontal saccades can make a huge difference in how much foot contact you have with the ground and that can improve your balance training so give it a shot hope you find it useful!