Activities to sharpen your hand-eye coordination

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Racket sports, swimming, and even wrestling can help.

Think about all the things you do with your eyes and hands at the same time, like driving a car, cooking a meal, picking up an object, or grabbing a ramp. They are made possible in part by the coordination of the information your eyes pick up and the signals your brain sends to your arms and hands. This hand-eye coordination is essential to maintaining your independence.

Unfortunately, hand-eye coordination decreases with age. Reflexes, speed and accuracy are lackluster, possibly due to loss of vision, poor health, or changes in brain wiring. “Many people in our society over 60 who follow a Western diet and don’t get enough exercise have tiny, imperceptible ‘mini-strokes’ in their brains. These strokes can disrupt connections in important health centers. brain coordination. Plus we all lose brain cells that produce dopamine, a chemical that helps the brain regulate movement and coordination, ”says Dr. Andrew Budson, neurologist and head of neurology cognitive and behavioral at the VA Boston Healthcare System.

The good news: “You can improve hand-eye coordination by exercising, practicing skills, and treating underlying conditions,” says Dr. Budson.

Hand-eye training

Any exercise is good for your brain, and the following can be especially helpful for hand-eye coordination.

Racket sports. In tennis, racquetball, or pickleball, your eyes are looking at the ball and your brain is asking your body to meet it.

“The speed of the moving ball is a challenge. Your brain has to deal with that hand and arm not only where you can see it, but also where you can’t see it, when the ball goes by and you reach behind you or towards the It forces your reaction time to be. faster, ”says Jennifer Packard, occupational therapist at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

To swim. In swimming, you often use your arms and hands outside of your line of sight, forcing the brain to use its mind’s eye. “You visualize in your head what your hands are doing, without looking at them,” says Packard. “In addition, the sensory input is different in water, which challenges the brain.”

Tai chi. This ancient martial art uses a series of slow, fluid movements and deep breathing. You gradually shift your weight from one pose to another, which improves your reflexes, balance, strength, flexibility, and range of motion. Tai chi strengthens all of these components of movement.

Contactless boxing. This is a type of exercise program that involves wearing boxing gloves and doing ghost boxing or hitting soft pads. This is especially hard on your brain because you quickly aim left with your right hand or right with your left hand.

“There’s a huge benefit to getting your brain to cross the midline – an imaginary vertical line drawn from the sky down through your nose to your belly button and between your ankles,” Packard explains.

Hand-eye activities

You don’t have to sweat to sharpen your hand-eye coordination; lots of fun activities can help you. You could

  • playing wrestling with a friend
  • bounce a ball against a wall
  • play cornhole (a beanbag game)
  • start juggling
  • play darts (magnetic darts are a safe choice)
  • sew or knit
  • paint or draw
  • play a video game.

Adapt activities

If any of these activities seem too difficult for you, you may be able to modify it to make it easier.

For example: “If a ball is too small to catch, blow up a balloon and kick it back and forth,” suggests Packard. “Play pickleball instead of tennis because the pickleball court is smaller and you don’t have to cover as much ground to hit the ball. Or play ping pong with a light plastic pickleball or baseball, which may be easier to hit than a ping pong ball. “

If you need help, occupational therapists can help you modify activities and create programs to suit your coordination needs. Insurance can cover services only if they are medically necessary; ask your doctor if you qualify.

Whether you train with a therapist or alone, make your practice more difficult over time; use a smaller ball or try a more difficult activity. “If you can increase the challenge once a month, that’s an impressive achievement,” Packard points out.

The big advantage: a carryover in your daily activities, like driving or shopping. “Reduced hand-eye coordination is not something you have to come to terms with,” says Dr Budson. “You can start improving it now.”


Image: © adamkaz / Getty Images

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