The world around us provides abundant opportunities for awe.
Much has been written lately about “awe walks,” meditative strolls in which you intentionally turn your attention outward. Such walks are easy to do if you can walk and see well.
And much harder for anyone with difficulty walking or seeing. Visual impairment can double the risk of falls. And many people who need a walker need it only because of poor vision.
Let’s look at two questions:
Does walking regularly improve vision?
Does corrected vision improve walking?
The answer to the first is an unequivocal “yes.”
Walking (at any speed, for any distance) increases circulation throughout the body and ramps up blood flow to our retinas and optic nerves (since everyone, hopefully, has two of each!). It also reduces the risk and/or severity of diabetes or hypertension, “wet” macular degeneration and the formation of cataracts.
Furthermore, walking has been associated with decreased intraocular pressure, the principal measure of glaucoma.
As for our second question—Does better vision improve walking?— the answer is also yes, as it’s tied to reducing the risk of falls.
We think of vision impairment as reduced acuity (seeing objects clearly at a distance), but it means much more than that. It can also include loss of contrast sensitivity (seeing the outline of a shape), depth perception (sensing how far apart two objects are) and motion perception (understanding how fast an object is moving).
People who can’t see well are likely to reduce their walking speed, have poorer balance, and exhibit a diminished ability to survive a challenge to their balance. (For further reading, I recommend this article from the National Library of Medicine).
While many age-related eye diseases cannot be reversed, the good news is that, with intervention, many can be slowed or, in some cases, completely arrested.
The one dramatic exception, where an effective “cure” is indeed possible, is cataract removal and correction through a lens implant,
According to a study by the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, cataract surgery can drastically reduce the number of falls experienced by older people with impaired vision. The study was conducted with 400 people over the age of 50 who had cataracts; the research found that fixing just one affected eye diminished the rate of falls among participants by a whopping 78%—and the rate further went down with the removal of a second cataract.
Therefore, the relationship between walking and vision is rather symbiotic.
When we walk better, we see better. And when we see better, we walk better.
Yours in health,