Myopia, movement and getting outdoors

Just to warn you, this will be a body nerd post written for those who love learning how their body works. So if that’s not for you, then stop now and walk away

I’m really enjoying listening to the current debate around the causes of myopia (short-sightedness) now that several studies have highlighted that a lack of outdoor time has massively increased the incidence of myopia. I’m currently listening to Katy Bowman’s podcast episode, which is a brilliant discussion and summary of the research, given how little time I actually have to read all this stuff myself.

I’m hearing that:

  • We only fix simple symptoms while ignoring the more complicated whole
  • We ignore natural growth cycles where we have to grow into our bodies throughout life
  • Fixed mindset: we are told our eyes are supposed to work like this, so glasses are the only solution
  • We diagnose and medicate sooner and sooner

So, to get the full debate, check out Katy’s episode and show notes. What I wanted to do is show you, as an engineer and body nerd, just how this research could highlight a natural health improvement that you can implement yourself.

I have to warn you, though, that I’m working on theory because, despite all that is known about the body, it’s such a complex organism that we have only just scratched the surface.

I am increasingly recognising that the eyes and how they work are based on a kinetic (movement) chain and a feedback mechanism, which you can liken to modern cameras with their autofocus, white balance adjustment, including the pre and post-picture processing that goes in the visual cortex and even the eye itself. With that model in mind, you can start to see that the eye’s ability to focus is dependent on its ability to

  1. adjust its lens,
  2. detect the lens is focused
  3. correctly interpret the image
  4. display the image to your “mind’s eye”

Each of these steps could fail either completely or slightly, and we would have problems, and this could easily be myopia. That we use glasses to fix the problem is natural in our industrial age because we’re fixing what’s obvious and easy to fix: point #1, the ability to focus light onto the lens.

But what if our eyes are not a fixed problem but, in fact, like the rest of our body, they are constantly changing, and what we should really be doing is learning to work with these adaptations? To illustrate, think about when you were young and going through growth spurts, your clothes didn’t fit you, and your parents said you would grow into them. Over the years, your body changed so much that you had to keep adjusting to who you were becoming, and so did everyone around you.

What I’m wondering and what Katy and the others are hinting at is that we could in fact, be misunderstanding the problem and thus fixing the symptom, not the actual problem, by outlining these steps

When I studied the psychology of perception, I learnt so much about why we don’t actually see the world for what it is but what our brain interprets from the senses it has. Optical illusions are a great example of how this works.

The main lesson I take from all I have learnt is that our eyes and vision are adapting to our habits every day, just like every part of us. Getting outside is consistently reported in research as the best way to improve and protect eyesight and vision. So, anything you can do to enjoy and experience the outdoors and get yourself in nature will benefit your eyes in the long term.

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