Move More, See Better
Everyone knows that exercise is important to good health. However, exercising becomes even more important for people as they age; it is also important for anyone with a chronic or serious eye condition. Exercise’s benefits can be compared to good nutrition’s; while exercising will be good for your overall health, it will also directly affect and improve your ability to see.
You may be wondering how that can happen. We have two types of vision: visual acuity and functional vision. Basically, visual acuity is a measurement that shows how well you can see when you are focused on an eye chart, a light, or some other target. Functional vision may be quite different from acuity; it is the indicator of how well we see when we are using our eyes as they were intended to be used normally. In other words, “functional vision” means what you’re doing when your eyes are simply responding to your environment, not seeking out specific targets to look at.
Functional vision relies a lot on three functions: peripheral vision, scanning ability, and, believe it or not, balance and posture. Therefore, exercises that improve these functions will improve your functional vision, thereby improving your ability to see—regardless of your eyeglasses prescription. We will discuss the difference between visual acuity and function in more detail in Chapter 5, when we talk about vision therapy. My goal in this chapter, especially if you are a person who does not exercise regularly, is to introduce you to some forms of exercise that you may not have considered before. Many wonderful workouts can be fun, worked into your regular schedule, and done from home.
Remember when you were a kid and jumped up and down, and up and down, on a trampoline? You thought it was just fun, and it was. Yet this fun
form of movement also has tremendous benefits for both the immune system and vision. It also has a new name; we call what happens when adults jump on trampolines “rebounding.” Using a rebounder (a small trampoline) is a wonderful option for everyone, especially seniors or folks recuperating from accidents or injuries. It’s also excellent exercise for those who have been sedentary and are just starting an exercise program.
Using a trampoline or rebounding is an easy and fun way to obtain many health benefits right in your own home or backyard. You can choose between family-sized trampolines and personally-sized rebounders. Smaller trampolines are safer than the larger ones (which measure eight to fourteen feet), due to the former’s close proximity to the ground.
If you have balance issues, you can buy a rebounder with rails to hold onto until you get your “flying legs.” These items are quite reasonably priced, ranging from $99 to $500. The main rebounder variable seems to be durability. The cheaper ones wear out or tear more quickly. If price matters to you, I suggest you buy a cheaper one and see whether you will actually use it or not. Trade up to a more expensive one when you decide to work rebounding into your life on a regular basis.
A few of rebounding’s benefits include gaining a better sense of balance, achieving an enhanced sense of rhythm, and finding the ability to experience both sides of the body, or achieving bilateral awareness. These benefits are invaluable in helping to coordinate eye movements or to overcome the tendency to use your dominant eye (or side of the body). When you are on the trampoline, your left side and right side must bounce in unison, and you must maintain a steady rhythm throughout the body. Few other activities demand such a rhythm. Using a trampoline forces the brain to function bilaterally, which results in improved bilateral motor skill development and improved vision.
Rebounding is good for anyone who is reluctant to begin physical activities. Because it seems like play, even those of us who fear the gym or are averse to workouts may find ourselves taking little breaks throughout the day to jump. No special clothes or equipment are needed, either. Jumping on a trampoline is easy; it offers immediate success and a sense of accomplishment. It promotes many other health benefits, including a feeling of exhilaration, as described in the next section.
Increases Lymphatic Circulation
The body’s lymphatic system is a network of vessels. The vessels transport nutrients and drain toxic products from tissues. The network does not contain its own pumping mechanism. Instead, it relies on external pressure, including breathing and muscular contractions, to propel its contents through a system of one-way lymphatic valves. Using a trampoline helps the lymphatic system eliminate toxins because you increase the gravitational pull on your body as you bounce.
I also like to recommend rebounding as an exercise method for patients with glaucoma. In addition to providing exercise-related benefits, stimulating the lymphatic system has a pressure-lowering effect on the eye.
Increased Bone Density
You can strengthen your bones, just as you can strengthen your muscles, through moderate physical activity. Studies show that people who exercise at least three times a week have a higher mineral content in their bones, which correlates to much stronger bones. Improving bone density also reduces the chance of debilitating fractures and deformities associated with osteoporosis.
Low Impact Exercise is Easy on the Joints
The main disadvantage of another form of exercise, jogging, is the physical stress it places on the lower limbs and feet. In contrast, using the trampoline takes off up to 80 percent of the stress on your weight-bearing joints. Spending ten to twenty minutes using the trampoline is equal to spending about thirty minutes jogging. Because the trampoline mat absorbs some of the impact’s shock on each jump, there is no strain on the joints. When repeated, this low-impact exercise builds and strengthens the bones and muscles, resulting in increased toning, better balance, improved coordination, and stronger posture.
Heart and Circulation
The action of bouncing up and down against the pull of gravity strengthens all the body’s system. Jumping on a trampoline is considered to be one of the most beneficial aerobic exercises ever developed. The heart itself is strengthened, due to the increase in heart rate caused by jumping. Jumping also increases circulation by releasing energy and pumping oxygen into the brain. (Later on, in Chapter 9, we will discuss the importance of sufficient oxygenation to good vision.)
Jumping on a trampoline is exercise in disguise. It uses almost every muscle, specifically those in the stomach, arms, and legs. Muscles are toned, fat is burned, and metabolism is increased. All this makes a trampoline a successful tool for weight loss. Working out on a trampoline rejuvenates both the body and the mind. It increases endorphins, producing positive, mood- enhancing natural chemicals. This helps overcome negativity and depression, and helps people become happier, more positive individuals.
Finally, a study conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, found that using a trampoline can contribute to weight loss. “Exercise on a miniature trampoline is not significantly different from treadmill running or stationary bicycling in increasing fitness and decreasing
body fat in overweight women.”
Improve all your systems, your vision, your balance, and coordination, and improve your overall health, with a tool that costs under $100? It almost seems to good to be true. I suggest you give it a try.
Since we have been discussing rhythm, we need to talk about dancing. Dancing is another way to improve coordination, balance, peripheral vision, and eye-to-foot coordination. It also can improve social skills. Ballroom dancing is a great method. So are the many new forms of rhythmic movement, such as Zumba, a fitness program in which groups move to quick and upbeat Latin tunes. The program’s official slogan is “Ditch the workout, and join the party.” Zumba is definitely high energy and upbeat. YouTube.com has several videos that provide an orientation to this activity. A quick Internet search will lead you to many DVDs you can purchase, so you can get started with Zumba in your own home. Alternatively, you join a class; they are popping up everywhere. If having the right attire and shoes is important to you, you can find many shopping resources online. Again, the most important thing to do is to get started. Dance with a partner, alone, or in a class. Whatever keeps you motivated and moving is the right method for you.
Can Dance Lower Your Eye Pressure?
Peter Abilogu, an African Dance professor, recently completed our three- day Restore Your Vision program. He entered the program with a twenty-year history of glaucoma. Over the last couple of years, he has lost a great deal of vision. He has a keen interest in alternative treatments, particularly dance. Some Africans believe that when people dance in bare feet, they become connected to the earth’s healing energy. The dance movements, along with the music, produce vibrations that help heal the body.
During the program, Peter underwent our standard treatments of microcurrent therapy, syntonic light therapy, and homeopathy. After two days of treatment, his eye pressures were reduced from twenty-three to seventeen. (Normal pressure is under twenty.) Because of the extensive damage to his optic nerve (He could only see the big E with his right eye and could barely see light with his left eye.) I believed his pressure needed to be even lower than seventeen. Peter and I decided to do an experiment to see if African dance could lower the pressure. This is where the fun began!
After dancing for one hour, his pressures were reduced to thirteen in both
eyes. Peter told me his pressures had never been that low. We checked his vision and realized he was seeing five lines better on the eye chart. In addition, his visual field had expanded!
Scholars have published several articles on the pressure-lowering effects of exercise. I believe that dance, especially types of dance in which the dancer is grounded on the earth, might have an even greater affect on lowering pressure. Dr. Steven Sinatra, an integrative cardiologist, believes that “earthing” (or “grounding”) may be the most important health recommendation he’s given in his last thirty years of practice. Simply put, earthing reconnects the human body with the energy that’s naturally present in the ground we all walk on.
The practice of using the earth’s energy involves grounding a person to the earth, much like grounding an electrical current. When grounding occurs, electrons flow freely back and forth between the earth and the human body. This helps detoxify the harmful electromagnetic energy that accumulates in the body. Lastly, grounding helps balance the autonomic nervous system. So, how do you begin grounding? Walk barefoot on the earth. Take your shoes off at home and let your feet touch the concrete floor. If you can’t go barefoot, eliminate rubber-soled shoes and wear leather. Rubber is an insulator; in contrast, leather conducts the earth’s current.
Grounding might also help improve the affects of microcurrent therapy in eye disease treatment. We are asking patients to begin to test this by alternating microcurrent treatments between non-grounded and grounded states. How can you change states during your microcurrent treatment? Go outside. Simply take off your shoes and place your bare feet either on concrete or on the ground, and give yourself your treatment. In the next section, you’ll learn about types of movements to help vision that are traditionally done outside.
TAI CHI AND QI GONG
Perhaps something a bit slower than rebounding or dancing, and something more meditative, would best suit your ability and temperament. Although Tai Chi started out as a martial art, most of today’s practitioners teach it because of its health benefits. Tai Chi’s set of exercises is part of the 4,000-year-old system of traditional medicine practiced in China. When it is practiced alongside the complementary Qi Gong (pronounced “chee gong”), the two form a synergistic relationship, which results in an incredibly effective health maintenance system.
While Qi Gong is sometimes called the new yoga, the practice dates back
thousands of years to ancient China. The word “qi” (or “chi”) means “life force” or “vital energy of the body,” while “gong” means “a skill that is cultivated through steady practice.” Qi Gong is specifically designed to cultivate the body’s vital energy, using that energy to heal and strengthen every system throughout the body. In other words, Qi Gong involves working with energy to strengthen and cleanse the body.
If you cannot find a Tai Chi or Qi Gong class at your local senior center or community center, you can learn these techniques at home. Many DVDs are available online and instructional programs can be found everywhere. I particularly liked the online program at taichiforseniorsvideo.com because it is geared to beginners of any age, not just to seniors, and because it combines Tai Chi and Qi Gong. Here is some descriptive information from that website:
Most forms of exercise dissipate your energy and make you tired and hyper at the same time! Our form of Chi Kung [Qi Gong]/Tai Chi accumulates energy and leaves you refreshed and relaxed when you finish. The graceful, slow speed of our styles, coupled with an emphasis on deep breathing and mental focus, creates balance, flexibility, and calmness, which relieves stress and allows for the integration of your mind and body.
For Qi Gong fans, Lee Holden’s beginner program strengthens the entire body by encouraging it to follow its natural energy flow (www.exercisetoheal.com). Here is what Lee says about his work:
You’ll learn the five “postures of power,” and enjoy a series of standing meditations that will restore your internal balance. Filmed on the banks of a beautiful canyon stream, this is a delightful way to restore harmony to your body, mind, and spirit. Qi Gong mirrors the movements of nature, especially the fluidity of water. Qi Gong Flow for Beginners trains the body to be more relaxed, creating a sense of effortless ease. You’ll find yourself slipping into the moment as the body circulates newfound internal energy. Although the body is moving, the mind remains centered, creating a dynamic balance between tranquility and internal strength.
WHOLE-BODY VIBRATIONAL TRAINING
Does exercising make you think of hours in the gym, watching boring news programs, or of being wired to the music in your headphones as you
cycle, walk on a treadmill, or do other time-consuming and repetitive motions? Well, things have changed. In an effort to make exercise more appealing and efficient, people have created a new exercise concept called vibrational training. Vibrational training combines voluntary movement with electrical vibration. The result is that the body moves in three dimensions and each muscle group is worked rapidly and effectively.
The class of equipment called vibrational trainers includes a variety of products. Vibration trainers transmit waves of energy throughout the body, activating muscle contractions between twenty-five and fifty times per second. This enhances overall performance in sessions as short as fifteen minutes a day, three times a week. In addition to the increased contraction speed, the vibration’s influence ensures that more muscle fibers are activated than in normal, conscious muscle contractions. Doing this type of exercise uses muscles more efficiently, thus increasing bone density, balance, and muscle power. Compared with traditional training methods, vibrational training equipment helps people achieve greater results and increase hormonal production in much less time.
While there are many brands of vibrational trainers to choose from, I prefer the Power Plate® brand because it is widely used by many alternative doctors and because it is of extremely high quality. The Power Plate® comes in several sizes and speeds and is a bit of an investment; be prepared to spend upwards of $2,000 on one. You may be able to find a gym or spa near you where you can use the equipment as part of your membership. This could be a good permanent solution, or a way to experience the machine and decide whether it might be a good investment.
Here is some more detailed information about the Power Plate® from the manufacturer (www.powerplate.com/us/products):
Acceleration Training with Power Plate® machines creates instability in the human body, as with each vibration the body is forced to perform reflexive muscle actions multiple times per second. Furthermore, these contractions must work in multiple dimensions as the Power Plate® machines actually oscillate in all three planes, exactly as the human body is designed to do. The net result is an incredible improvement in strength and power. Training on Power Plate® equipment offers a host of benefits, ranging from an immediate improvement in blood circulation to a variety of other measurable outcomes. [These include] increased muscle strength and flexibility, improved range of motion, decreased cellulite, increased bone mineral density, reduced pain and soreness, and faster recovery. Power Plate® is the ultimate wellness solution for all ages, lifestyles, and physical abilities.
One of the most important features of this type of workout is its efficiency. A whole host of benefits can be yours after investing just a minimum amount of time. This combination makes such exercise valuable. Statistics show that most in-home workout equipment just gathers dust in garages, while many
people who become gym members fail to attend sessions after the first few months. Exercising fifteen minutes a day, three times per week is something most of us can commit to doing. Who knows? You might even be able to do more.
We have reviewed several ways to get your body moving: from fast to slow, from stationary to bouncing, from using internal to external rhythm, and from expensive to almost free. I hope you have found a way that suits you and that you will begin to add one or more of these approaches to your plan to regain or retain your health.
Marcus, Daniel. “The Effect of Exercise on Intraocular Pressure.” Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science 9, no.10 (October 1970): 753-757.
Conclusion: The study found a statistically significant decrease in pressure during jogging and measured that decrease as a two- to five-point drop in pressure thirty minutes after exercise.
Natis, Konstantinos, et al. “Aerobic Exercise and Intraocular Pressure in Normotensive and Glaucoma Patients.” BMC Ophthalmology 9, no. 6 (13 Aug. 2009).
Conclusion: In normal eyes of sedentary subjects who engage in moderate to heavy exercise for three months, a consistent decrease in pressure occurs (on the order of twelve points). As for glaucoma patients, regardless of the anti- glaucoma medication instilled, they still benefited from the aerobic exercise since they all had a post-exercise reduction of pressure. Short-term studies show it may improve blood flow to the retina and optic nerve as well.