Intense, short-term exercise may stimulate and excite the motor cortex, motoneurons, or corticofugal connections and improve visual task performance, according to a study published in Clinical and Experimental Optometry.
Researchers enrolled 60 participants who were not athletes (100% men; mean age, 23.11 years) in the study and administered a standardized 6-item baseline sports vision test battery at baseline. All study participants returned for a 1-week follow-up to retake the battery of tests and 30 of these participants completed a 30-second Wingate anaerobic cycling test prior to reassessment (experimental group). The research team evaluated visual acuity, depth perception, accommodative facility, saccadic eye movements, peripheral awareness, hand eye coordination, and visual memory and compared findings between the experimental and control group participants.
Individuals in the experimental group demonstrated significant improvements in accommodation facility, saccadic eye movement, speed of recognition, peripheral awareness, and hand-eye coordination (P <.001 for all) after performing the 30-second anaerobic cycling test.
Investigators note improvements from baseline to retest in control group participants for accommodation facility (35.8 to 38.0; P =.001), saccadic eye movement (38.2 to 40.6; P =.023), peripheral awareness (65.4 to 68.8; P =.045), and visual memory (41.6 to 43.4; P =.021) and attribute this to a learning effect. No changes were noted for speed of recognition of hand eye coordination (P =.200 and P =.398, respectively).
“[P]re-season baseline testing to highlight any postinjury deficits (i.e. following concussion) has become increasingly prevalent in sports as baseline testing allows clinicians to gauge pre-injury performance,” according to the study authors. “Athletes are often administered these baseline tests while at rest, despite injuries routinely occurring and being immediately assessed during physical activity. Therefore, adjustments are required to baseline testing to account for any modifying factors that may jeopardize not only performance outcomes, but also injury assessments.”
Study limitations include the exclusion of women and trained athletes and a lack of binocular testing to identify individuals with strabismus or amblyopia.
Shaw BS, Breukelman G, Millard L, Moran J, Brown G, Shaw I. Effects of a maximal cycling all-out anaerobic test on visual performance. Clin Exp Optom. Published online December 11, 2022. doi:10.1080/08164622.2022.2153583