Spotters! It great to see you working out and getting swoll! Just look at those biceps! Look at the pecks on those chests! Obviously staying physically fit is a vital component of a healthy lifestyle as it serves as the foundation for peak performance during strenuous activities. However, as I got older I started to lose performance in one area of my body I’ve been neglecting. People told me it was natural, it happens with age, and everyone goes through it, but to realize it was happening to me was disheartening. So what part of the body am I talking about? No, it’s not my manhood, although kegels is an important exercise that many of us neglect to do. The part of the I’m talking about are your Mk. 1 Eyeballs! As an older shooter in my 40’s my vision acuity has diminished and I finally realized I had to do something to maintain what was left of my vision.
During my initial research I came across the typical dietary recommendations of maintaining healthy eyes such as eating veggies rich in vitamins A, B, C, zinc and beta-carotene. Omega-3 fatty acids, lutein and zeaxanthin are also important to eye health and could be obtained by eating fish, eggs, nuts, soy, and variety of other foods. I also came across information about smoking and the damage it can cause to the optic nerve. The damage to the optic nerve can lead to cataracts and macular degeneration so if you smoke, then quit while you’re ahead! Finally, I came across exercises for the eyes. This was particularly interesting because I realized I’ve neglected to work out my eyes.
Like most people I use my eyeballs every day, but using a part of a body as intended doesn’t mean it will reach its full potential. For example, a mailman may use his legs to walk a route every day, but it doesn’t mean he will become a 100-meter dash champion. Just as athletes and warriors work out their bodies in a specific manner, the eyes should also be exercised in a purposeful way. One reason why this is important is because it may be your eyes lagging in reaction time rather than the body. In competitive shooting, the eyes must work faster than the body. Ideally, you should see the target first before aligning your gun on the target.
While the claim of improving vision acuity with exercises is open for debate (as highlighted by this article: http://www.allaboutvision.com/buysmart/see_clearly.htm ), there are other benefits that may help your eyes. These exercises are designed to strengthen your eye muscles, ease eye movements, improve focus speed, and stimulate your brain’s vision center. Additionally, these exercises may increase blood flow and oxygen to the eyes for improved performance. I’ve exercised my eyes for months with no discernable improvement in my visual acuity; I still wear my prescription glasses for shooting and binge-watching Netflix. However, I did notice an improvement in target acquisition, faster focus between various distances, and faster transition from target to iron sights.
The ciliary muscles are attached to the lens of the eye and it is responsible for contracting and relaxing shape and curvature of the lens. This is important because the lens is responsible for 25-35% of the focusing mechanism for the eyes. To work out this muscle, take one finger and put in it about 12-15 inches in front of your face. Choose an object a few feet further away. Now quickly change your focus from the tip of your finger to the object further away. Do it 5 times and then rest your eyes by closing them for a few seconds.
This is another great exercise for you ciliary muscles: take your index finger and extend your arm. Slowly bring it closer to your face while looking at the tip of your finger. Stop when you lose focus, then slowly extend your arm. Do this 5 times also.
The lateral rectus muscles are responsible for the movement of the eyes from left to right. To perform this exercise, hold your head straight and look to the left as far as you can and hold it for a second. Then go to the right as far as you can and hold it for a second. Do it 5 times then rest your eyes.
The superior rectus moves the eyes upwards and the inferior rectus moves the eyes downward. To work out these muscles hold your head straight and look up as far as you can and hold it for a second. Then look down as far as you can and hold it for a second. Do this 5 times then rest your eyes.
To work out the rest of the muscles around the eyes, such as the medial rectus and inferior oblique, keep your head straight and move your eye in a circle clockwise 3 times and counter clockwise 3 times. Finally rest your eyes and give yourself a pat on the back.
In conclusion, your visual acuity may not quantifiably improve but the benefits of working out the muscles around and inside the eyes are real and could improve your situational awareness and your reaction time. This is by no means a comprehensive guide for eye exercises so if you are interested there you can consult a sports optometrist for more information or go online and find more exercises that are right for you. Hopefully this short overview will help some older shooters to make good use of their Mk 1. eye balls and younger shooters reach their peak performance.
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