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Biking affects your vision

By physiotherapist Sigrid Mitchell

Both the peripheral vision, near/far and focal vision are stimulated when navigating through the surroundings, avoiding obstacles and other bikers using saccades, smooth pursuit, converging and diverging.

Vision is an incredibly complex system that creates large amount of activation over many areas of the brain.

70-90% of the sensory input comes from the vision and is governed by both reflexive and cognitively driven mechanisms.

The vision controls up to 70% of postural activities and is directly connected to the vestibular system by the VOR (vestibule ocular reflex) to have smooth visual information available while moving through the world.

The eyes are each controlled by 6 muscles. Vision is therefore a skill and requires practice to be used efficiently

Vision can be divided into 5 skills:

Gaze stabilization: the ability to stay in focus on a target over time in all directions.

Smooth pursuit: the ability to move the eyes in all directions to follow an object.

Saccades: the ability to switch between targets in all directions while staying in focus.

Near/far: the ability to switch between converging and diverging while staying in focus.

Peripheral vision: the ability to stay aware of the surroundings while having one focus point.

 

When balancing, speed is often beneficial. The faster we move, the stronger our vestibulary sense is stimulated. This explains why it is often easier to balance when cycling fast as opposed to cycling very slowly, where we find that rider and bicycle are more likely to wobble.

When we ask the child to walk slowly (in slow motion) on hilltops, the exercise trains reactive balance more effectively than when the child skips rapidly from one hilltop to the next.

In other words, a child who has impaired reactive balance finds it easier to run quickly through the hilltop trail than slowly. It is more challenging for a child – even one with good reactive balance – to walk very slowly through the trail.