Walking and Exploring as Visual Exercise

Over the last two years, double vision when merely sitting still has become increasingly less of a problem. Now I’m working on keeping my vision together within a moving body or while doing more cognitively taxing tasks, or a combination of those!

An underrated vision exercise is taking walks. The most exhausting thing about walks for me is keeping my eyes in check. You are placing demands on your vision (exploring the environment at various distances, requiring you to make saccades, track objects, (con/di-)verge and use central as well as peripheral vision) while it interacts with  a myriad of other motor and balance systems simultaneously. It seems ‘simple’ but it’s quite a lot of neurological multi-tasking that needs to go down smoothly.

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Complementary to ‘simply walking’,  I also build a mental map of the city. I’ve been living in Brussels for quite a while but many areas and how they fit together were still unknown to me. Every so often I ‘drop’ myself somewhere in the city by metro and set out to go to some  other predetermined location a couple of kilometers away. A crucial element to this is that, if need be, I only use a compass to find my route rather than Google Maps. I’m also careful to not be too ambitious. This way, by the time I get to my destination, my vision does not get too fuzzy and I’m not too dizzy and exhausted to go home by metro without major headaches or nausea. I also make sure to pack some food because I burn a lot of calories exercising and operating my vision. It’s kind of crazy how much I eat in general without gaining weight.

Overall, this practice is great for visio-motor integration and the improvement of visual memory, mental maps and orientation on the NSEW grid. I’m getting a feel for how Brussels is organized and is put together while expanding my visual as well as geographical comfort zone. The great thing about the city is that it’s always interesting. You don’t need to move great distances to experience a multitude of widely differing worlds.

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Some pictures of the Botanical Gardens in Brussels. Apologies for the low quality!

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This article has 2 comments

  1. Sarah Reply

    This sounds like a really great practical exercise! I like to use walks to improve my visual skills as well, although I’ve never done anything quite this ambitious. I especially find being in natural settings helpful, but I think the stimulation of an urban setting would be interesting too.

    • Michael Lievens Reply

      Yes, natural settings are nice and peaceful. It depends, in my case, on my level of visual comfort. Previously I liked the peace and quiet so I could have my vision rest and resettle. Especially bc I was rather hypervigilant for a number of reasons. But now, as I am more at peace and visually more advanced, I do like a more busy and urban scene. It does not feel too overwhelming anymore, or at least, not all the time. Personally I find the city life and the people fascinating to look at.

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