Without us even realising it, badminton sharpens one of our most important senses - our eyesight! Peter Zauner, badminton coach and former professional player (men's doubles ranking: 22), tells us more:
• the benefits of badminton for our eyesight
• dexterity and eye-hand coordination
• exercises to hone our visual acuity
Like all racket sports, badminton is one of the best ways to stimulate our eyes and work on our coordination. For Peter, badminton is without a doubt “the fastest racket sport around and speed naturally trains our coordination skills.” When we perform tasks at speed, our brain and eyesight have to jump through a lot of hoops.
Peter explains how as a child badminton helped stimulate and improve his eyesight:
"When I was 12 years old, I wore glasses and I didn't like it. I played badminton at the time, and after a year or so I had my eyesight checked and I didn't need glasses anymore. I really think it helped my eyesight."
Whatever level we play at, our eyes focus on the movement and distance of the shuttle. As the shuttle can move up to 493 kmph - the current record held during a smash - the eye also needs to adapt to changes in speed. Our brain then learns to predict its trajectory, which in turn hones our reflexes.
2. Developing coordination and motor skills
According to Peter, badminton improves our coordination skills and reflexes because we have to focus on the shuttle while taking into account other factors: "In badminton, you always need to focus on the shuttle, and at the same time keep an eye on your opponent, the net, the lines, and your leg and arm control.”
Paying attention to both the shuttle and our own movements on court sharpens our spatial perception, which has benefits for younger and older players alike.
Shifting between fast and slow movements also hones our motor skills and eye-hand coordination: “You need to constantly move your legs, but sometimes your arm has to be much more flexible so you don’t hit the shuttle too hard.”
Amateur and older players tend to have a problem with this kind of shot, whereas junior players generally memorize and execute it quickly. "Sometimes it's hard for them to run fast and hit slow. If they run fast, they tend to return the shuttle just as fast and hard.”
Besides coordination, badminton also scales up your levels of endurance, power, speed, and accuracy.
3. Using badminton to improve your eyesight: 3 tips
Simply playing badminton is enough to stimulate our reflexes and eyesight at any age. But is there a way to take it to the next level and enjoy even more day-to-day benefits? The answer is... yes! Below, Peter shares three tips and exercises to improve our eyesight.
● Tip #1 - Focus on eye-hand coordination:
Keepie-uppies: "The best thing is to do keepie-uppies. They connect both sides of your brain and, as a result, your eye and hand movements. For more variety, or if you can't do keepie-uppies, drop a balloon or a scarf and try to catch it as quickly as you can.”
● Tip #2 – Build your explosive speed:
Balls: "We do an exercise where we release balls, preferably oval ones, like rugby balls, which you have to catch as fast as you can before they bounce off in all directions."
Shuttles: "We throw as many shuttlecocks as we can at one player, and they try to hit them all back with their racquet as fast as they can."
• Tip #3 - Sharpen your reflexes:
Extra steps: "Use the same exercise as before - dropping balls or returning shuttles - and add an extra step. Between shots, when a coach or teammate claps their hands, do some quick mental arithmetic or play a new shot.”
A final word of advice from Peter: vary the exercises regularly so training stays fun and your brain doesn't get used to one type of exercise.
As well as being a fun sport, badminton can help improve our eyesight at any age. Game speed, constantly stimulated reflexes, and permanent coordination between limbs and vision mean our eyesight has to work non-stop. And maybe, like Peter, badminton will help some people see better so they don’t have to wear glasses or contact lenses.