It’s no secret that the benefits of exercise are not only limited to getting fitter and stronger. Whether it’s improving our moods, bossting sleep health or reducing the likelihood of developing hundreds of chronic diseases, exercise really is the best preventative medicine we have access to.
But it seems that even with all the known benefits of exercise, we’re still only just beginning to discover some of its hidden bonuses. If the results of a new study carried out at the University of California, Santa Barbara, are anything to go by, exercise could also be directly linked to improvements in our vision.
That said, it apparently not quite as simple as reaching for the dumbbells and suddenly finding yourself with the outstanding vision you’ve always ring of.
Instead, researchers found that activation in the visual cortex was boosted by low intensity exercise. This being the area of the cerebral cortex that is known to be linked with the processing of visual information.
“We show that the increased activation—what we call arousal—changes how information is represented, and it’s much more selective,” commented Barry Giesbrecht, professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and lead author of the study. “
“There’s an interesting cross-species link that shows these effects of arousal might have similar consequences for how visual information is processed. That implies the evolution of something that might provide a competitive advantage in some way.”
Upon testing the theory in a relatively remedial way on a group of 18 volunteers, it was found that low-intensity exercise appeared to have the most notable effect of all.
“We found that the peak response is enhanced during low-intensity exercise relative to rest and high-intensity exercise,” said Tom Bullock, another of the study’s authors.
“We also found that the curve narrows in, which suggests a reduction in bandwidth,”
“Together, the increased gain and reduced bandwidth suggest that these neurons are becoming more sensitive to the stimuli presented during the low-intensity exercise condition relative to the other conditions.”
Though the researchers admitted that he remains a mystery as to why this response occurs, they nonetheless heralded the findings as potentially significant.