Description: Form Follows Necessity, and Your Eyes Are No Exception
You move your body, and your body is moved by your environment. The eyes are no exception. This episode focuses on two of your most important sensory input organs and how the way you use them has shaped the way they work.
DANI: Hey, everyone. Dani here. Katy was flopping around her office in a mid-morning, drunken stupor – wearing high-heeled shoes, no less – and threw herself over her Topo mat in a Parkour-inspired attempt at low vaulting. Unfortunately, she not only failed to execute the vault, but also succeeded in busting her microphone off its base. Then, she put on a charm bracelet, and recorded the podcast holding her mic in her rattly hand. She does have a new mic stand on order, but please bear with us – this is how you keep it real.
DANI: It’s the Katy Says podcast, where movement geek, Dani Hemmat – that’s me – joins biomechanist, Katy Bowman, author of Move Your DNA, for discussions on body mechanics, movement nutrition, natural movement, and how movement can be the solution to modern ailments we all experience.
KATY: Okay, today we are going to talk about eyes and natural movement, and how that affects things like vision, because people get that with arms and legs and the exercise-y parts, but I don’t think we really think about our eyeballs that much.
DANI: Mm-mm. And a lot of times, I mean, something that’s been awesome, and I keep pulling this out of when I re-read Move Your DNA is that it’s not just us moving: it’s our environment moving us, and that’s so important to remember, because there’s so many things that can have an affect on ourselves.
KATY: And I think that’s left out a lot in discussions about, you know, why is nature so important for people? It’s because of fresh air! And all these other things, and for me it is really is, no, it’s literally moving you. Indoors moves you in a different way than the outdoors do, and the eyeballs seem to be a good place to get that idea across. And then, bonus: it’s a huge thing right now in academic type research of people – I mean, it has for a while, but – I mean, you can’t – you’ll just trip over a research article on eyeballs and outdoor time, you know, they’re just so prolific everywhere. Have you ever done that? Have you ever tripped over eyeball research?
DANI: Yeah, when I’m not looking where I’m going. And speaking of looking, let’s look at this statistic that needs a closer look. [ding!] When I read this, it just blew my mind. 1.4 billion people – that’s 22.6% of the population – are affected with myopia.
KATY: Which is nearsightedness, for those people who don’t know.
DANI: That is nearsightedness. And here’s a cool thing – they’re called myopes, which is kind of cute. They sound like they frolic along with unicorns. Myopes. And the incidence of myopia has doubled in the United States and Europe in the last 50 years, which is a huge number – doubled, okay – but in China, it’s up 80%. What gives?
KATY: I know. So that’s what we need to talk about. But just an interesting side note: I go to Europe a couple times a year for work, and when I was in The Holland, we were walking around – always walking around everywhere we go – and I passed an eyeglasses shop. An optometrist, I guess. And the display that was featured was a childrens’ display. And I had never – you know, I grew up – I’ve been wearing glasses, which, we can talk about that in a minute – usually, the childrens’ glasses section was this tiny component of an otherwise adult styles to pick from, right? It was like, all adults and then it’d be like 6 things.
DANI: Oh, yeah, there were like 6 frames for the kids to choose from. All stupid.
KATY: All stupid!
DANI: Thank God they gave us little gold stickers to put in the little bottom corner –
KATY: All stupid!
DANI: – of the lens because the frames were so stupid.
KATY: They were not cool. They were just basically smaller versions of what your parents were wearing in the ‘80s. I was like, amazing! Thank you so much!
DANI: Yeah, not much smaller for some of us. I’ve seen your pictures.
KATY: Exactly. Thanks. Thanks.
DANI: Yeah. No problem. Now there’s tons of kids’ frames –
KATY: Huge! Stylish!
DANI: – which, just anecdotally, it’s like, okay, why are all these kids needing glasses?
KATY: Exactly. I’ve been saying this for the last few years, really, almost on the leading edge of the research coming out. So clearly there was a demand and then the consumer filled the demand, and then the research is like, wait, what happened? So here’s – this is a quote from a really great article, that if you’re interested in this you can just go Google and find it – it’s called “The Myopia Boom” is the title, and it’s published on – I don’t know if it was actually in the journal or if it was kind of on their web component for Nature, which is a big –
KATY: Journal. “East Asia has been gripped by an unprecedented rise in myopia, also known as shortsightedness. Sixty years ago, 10-20% of the Chinese population was shortsighted. Today up to 90% of teenagers and young adults are. In Seoul, a whooping” Or is it whopping?
DANI: I believe whopping.
KATY: That’s right.
DANI: Do you have your glasses on?
KATY: 1 – oh, 2 p’s. No, I’m just an idiot. I’m an idiot with perfect vision.
DANI: There’s no frames for that.
KATY: “In Seoul – in Seoul, a whopping 96.5% of 19 year old men are shortsighted.”
DANI: That’s, like, everybody in the age group.
KATY: They’re also nearsighted. I just want to say – I think shortsighted is not – I’m working on this section of a new book on essays and I’m talking about words being confusing. I don’t think shortsighted is given its other meanings, you know, being shortsighted. Nearsighted or sticking with myopia is better. But 96.5% of 19 year old men.
DANI: That is an amazing statistic. That’s like – it’s horrifying, too. Wow.
KATY: Well, what it does is it’s indicative. It’s indicative of not only an issue – I mean, I liked your closer look pun, by the way. I can’t let that go unnoticed.
DANI: Thank you.
KATY: It’s not only that the prevalence of it, it’s the increase of it – the rapid increase of it. Like, there’s some major thing going on, and I think that’s why there’s been such an abundant amount of research. It’s like, this isn’t – this isn’t – this is a big deal! And I think it’s easy to say, well, myopia, who cares? You know? Like, get some glasses. But they are a stepping-stone to other ailments of the eye that aren’t just about how you see. They’re about the health of the eye. Vision is a very important sense. And so – I think it’s – Move Your DNA talked about those red flags. We have a red flag as a species that’s going off – let’s pay attention to it! You don’t have to – you don’t have to change your lifestyle if you’re not interested in it. But you don’t necessarily want to dismiss or science shouldn’t dismiss a red flag just because some people aren’t interested or don’t think it’s a big enough deal to warrant investigation. It’s saying something about people.
DANI: Right, and it’s not just myopia. I mean, it can increase the risk of cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal detachment when you get older. They gotta look at that first, I guess.
KATY: Well, it’s kind of like when you get older, when you have this more advanced stuff, it’s like, “why didn’t anyone tell me? There’s no solution to this bigger stuff.” It’s like, well, the solution for many of these bigger things is to start understanding the first warning flags that go off 30-60 years before hand. So if we’re trying to solve bigger medical issues, mechanism, long-term mechanism is a good place to start. And so luckily, that’s what everyone’s been doing. Gosh, so where do we want to start? So first off, I guess we should have a disclaimer here: read the fine print [ding!] I have worn glasses since I was 7. What about you?
DANI: Um, 8.
KATY: And then what’s your prescription?
DANI: Oh, gosh, all right. Don’t chuckle. It is -8.5.
KATY: Wow. So I’m 7.
DANI: Yeah. But I’ve also got, what, 5 years on you?
KATY: Well, have you had it change?
DANI: Although my prescription hasn’t changed in like 5 years. It’s crazy. I just hit a point and it just kind of slowed down.
KATY: Well, yeah. I think it has a lot to do with growth as well. My prescription really hasn’t changed since I’ve been in my early 20s, and I’m going to be 40 next month.
DANI: That’s good.
KATY: So I’m holding steady.
DANI: Do your parents – I know that in your book, you had your mom with your big goggles on. But what about Daddy Bowman?
KATY: Daddy Bowman still doesn’t need glasses. I mean, he’s got some cheaters, because he’s an older person, but no – no. He is not a glasses kind of guy. So. Nope, no myopia there. What about your folks?
DANI: Both, and I was reading that one study that said it’s not – and we can just talk about this later, but, you know, everybody, when I got glasses was like, oh, of course, your parents have glasses and your siblings have glasses, so you’re going to. But genetics aren’t everything, but they can be part of that if you develop myopia. I mean, it’s not just because of your parents, but there is a gene for it, correct?
KATY: Well, there’s not a gene for it, like, genetics are definitely playing a role. And that was kind of the earlier understanding and the earlier theories of myopia was that it was more gene-centric because you would have identical twins who both had it. But when you cast a net a little bit wider than twin studies, of course, a lot of the time they’re growing up in the same homes or whatnot – even in twins that don’t grow up in the same home, you’re still being influenced quite heavily by your environment. So in the 60s, genetics weren’t understood as well as they are – like, the epigenetics or environmental factors are much more commonly discussed, I think, now. I think that the same way that there are studies now looking at these larger populations of people and how it’s increasing, there are also studies looking at populations that traditionally almost have never worn glasses. So I know that there’s a couple – the understanding of cultures who – there’s not a term for this, but it’s cultures who are – is literary-centric the word? Where their culture revolves around reading and writing. You know, there are, like I said, hunter-gatherer populations now who don’t read or write. Certainly not starting at 2 years old, you know, putting a child in front of a book, and Read! Or I’m going to read to you, and so there is this – there is a value on the ability to read and write now where there are cultures where that value is not there, and in those non – I’m just making up literary-centric – and in those cultures that are not based or founded or reading or writing is not a component of that, you don’t see the same myopia. Nearsightedness is not an issue, because there is not a lot of time spent in nearsighted situations. And also in that myopia boom, they’re also talking about in the ‘60s they studied Inuits, and they found Inuits who are kind of the native people to Alaska and elsewhere. But in Alaska, people who grew up in these more – I want to say natural but it’s not the right word – but they were in these traditional communities. I think 2/130 were myopic.
KATY: But when they look at their kids who have been transitioning to a modern way of living, which – this is going to be the part that we’ll talk about next, it’s like, what are the actual variables associated with modern living? It’s been identified that people who live in a more traditional set-up have less myopia, people who live in a more modern set-up have more myopia, and because it’s increasing, it’s like, what is it that’s increasing?
KATY: You can say, what is modern? But modern is a big category. So the big call is to delineate more – delineate is to be able to break down in a more refined way – what we mean by “modern.” So to be able to reduce the variable. So that’s what they’ve been doing: trying to reduce what is it about “modern?” And this is all in Move Your DNA. Initially, it was thought to be near-work: reading, writing, in more modern times. Screen time, hand-helds, you know – that kind of stuff. But they never actually delineate near-work to be like, 18”. I always find that if you would stop using words and start using math, it would be easier. So delineate 18” and call that tested. And when they test it, they really didn’t find that people who did more near-work were less likely to be myopic. So – I wrote a blog post about this –
DANI: Well, that kind of gets rid of that, huh?
KATY: Well, you know, so it’s like, well, it’s not reading or writing. It’s like, well, that doesn’t – that’s not necessarily what it means. What it means is if you’re not looking at 18”, what else are you looking at? So in Move Your DNA, that’s when I further delineate to go, we still have to really consider, if 0-18” from your face is near-work, what about the mid-distance of 0 to 20-30’, which is really the farthest you ever really look on a regular basis because you’re indoors. Or what you’re looking at is very close. And your eyeballs’ ability to move the muscles in the eyes – so nearsightedness is really created by enough tension in the muscles that change the shape of the lens that affect the distance at which you’re focusing at, they are – it’s almost like, distance – a lack of distance looking is casting your eye. So it sets a ring of tension, and then your eyeball is growing with this cast. I’m going to say the cast around it. So your ciliary muscles, if you think of your eyeball – if you think of a ring inside your eyeball, I’m trying to think of a good way for an audio show – like, what’s a good example?
DANI: The blog post that you wrote about that is so well illustrated with all of the stuff around your house.
KATY: You mean pumpkins and –
DANI: Yeah, hula hoops, straws. I don’t know what you had going on there, but it made a lot of sense, so we will link to that –
DANI: and all these other gazillion research articles in the show notes.
KATY: Yeah, so it’s just kind of like – it’s hard to describe it, but you have this muscle around your eye. So if you imagine your eye to be like an orange, the ring is kind of like an embroidery hoop – because that’s something that everybody has familiarity with, you know, an embroidery hoop. This ring, but it’s inside the orange – it’s just inside the rind. And so it tenses on the inside, but one part that hasn’t been really written out, and it’s on my list of things to do – it’s always on my list of things to do, to like write letters to the editor right after these articles are published, but I just haven’t had the time, so I turn it into a blog post. And you know. There it sits in obscurentia. Is that a word?
DANI: It is now! [ding!] [ding!] You’re on a roll – that’s two words per podcast.
KATY: Every time you make up a word, an angel gets its wings. Yes. It’s in a cast around the eyeball. So the eyeball is continuing to grow, but it’s in this kind of ring of tension. So when you have myopic eyes – myopes will tend to have longer eyeballs from the front to the back of your eyeball. So the long – the long axis of the eyeball will tend to be longer.
DANI: Because they’re being squeezed by those tight muscles, right?
KATY: Yes, my hypothesis is because this ring of tension is around it as its growing. And there’s been a couple – there’s been another study where they’re trying to figure out how to get eyeballs to relax, and it’s been in using particular drugs that will target the muscle that would have the physical – you know, with biomechanics or physics, if you take a balloon and squeeze it around the middle, it’s going to bulge at the end. That is just – that is the basic physical scenario that we’re using every time. So I’m like, hey, you’ve got this ring of muscle, and yes, it moves the lens, but it can also collapse or cast the entire eyeball, and as it’s growing it’s going to cause it to go longer front-to-back axis, which is then going to make the eye more myopic.
DANI: Yeah. That was really eye-opening. [ding!] Oh, I didn’t even mean to do that. My gosh. But in Move Your DNA, like, we used to do eye breaks where you’d look at stuff far away and come back in. But then Move Your DNA came out and I read through that, and I had never thought about not just close work like you said, but everything in your house – you’re only looking up to 30’. It just blew everything away. It’s like, wow. This entire thing that I’m paying rent on is my cast, oh my gosh. And I love that thought – it’s made me more paranoid about my kids’ eyes, because I already have one in glasses.
KATY: What you’re saying there, that’s a very important piece that I think is missing, and why distance and looking isn’t better delineated because I don’t think that a lot of people really consider being inside not having a far away place to look at – that’s a cultural blind spot, if you will [ding!] where, you know, I’m trying to think – you know – how far can I look? You can look off to like a mile. You can look hundreds of feet away from you and focus – your eye has that ability – but that’s – that understanding comes with being someone who is outside focusing on things far, far away a lot. And that is probably not the person that designs the studies. It wouldn’t, I don’t think, automatically occur that distance looking would be converted into feet as something like, I don’t know, 800 feet. 1200 feet. And it’s kind of like the last two podcasts we did on cardio and on fat. When we say things like 10,000 reps or 30 feet seems really far for your eye to look – but when we look at 30’ as a percentage of the total distance over which your eye is able to see, you’re looking at something that’s like 6%. So if your study was set up over 18” to 30’ over the potential of the human eye to see clearly, you know, over hundreds of feet – that understanding is just not there. And so the letter to the editor of Nature that I have still yet to write – just to – let me give you a breakdown of what, mathematically, you just looked at so that when they’re trying to design a study in the future, to really start looking at, well, you’re still in the near ranges. You haven’t eliminated looking up close just because you eliminated looking at 18”. You are still looking at what under 10% of the eye can see.
DANI: I would put that letter at the top of your to-do pile. Or letters to the editor. Because I would like different studies on that.
KATY: But in the end, I always – I grapple with this all the time. What’s more important? For it to go there, or for us to do this podcast? You know, it’s going to go, again, into abstentia. No, that’s not the word I want. Obscuria. Like, it’s there, and it will help people if they happen to read it, design a better study. But in the end, I’m just mostly interested with my own understanding and if other people want to join me on this ride, I am able to make decisions in my life based on that kind of stuff. So I don’t know. It’s on the list. It’s on a list somewhere. I just can’t find it because I am too nearsighted.
DANI: Ha! You myope, you.
KATY: Myopes. We’re myopes!
DANI: Sweet little myopes. We’re myopes.
KATY: So cute!
DANI: All right. You know, in headlines, I subscribe – probably as you do – to lots of, ‘get your kids outside in nature’ blogs and stuff like that. And you just keep reading: outdoor time and myopia. Get the kids outside. Just save their eyes. And you’ve written some stuff on this, but let’s break it down: what is it? Just like outdoors –
KATY: Break it down, now.
DANI: Uh-huh. What is it with the outdoors? It’s not just the outdoors.
KATY: Well, it’s a variable.
DANI: It’s not just fresh air, but what is it?
KATY: Well, that’s the thing. So again, this is going back to – what does outdoors mean? And so that’s where scientific reductionism is beautiful, because it’s like, well, what we’ve been able to determine is that kids – even if they have the gene – in air quotes – the gene that’s been identified associated with myopia. Even if you have that gene, if you go outside, children that have that gene are going to be less likely to express myopia than someone with the gene. So we talked earlier about is there genes? Yes, there have been genes that have been identified. They’re not, like, myopia genes. They are genes because you can have that gene and not have myopia – so therefore; it’s not a myopia gene. It’s – it is something about the tissue –
DANI: They called it a variant or something?
KATY: Well, it’s kind of like in Move Your DNA when we talked about the floppy fins of an orca. You could, if you take all of the orcas in captivity with a folded over fin and did a genetic sample, it would be very likely that you could find a gene that’s occurring in everyone that has a folded fin. But if you go into the wild, you could find that same gene in orcas that don’t have the folded over fin. Meaning that that gene isn’t a myopia gene. That gene is not a folded fin syndrome gene. And so it’s about language. It’s about – if we call it the myopia gene, you are leading people to think that there is something that is creating – that the gene is creating the problem. The gene is just there being in charge of – in the fin of an orca – it’s there in charge of collagen or a certain height of the fin. It’s there regulating something else. It’s not there regulating whether or not the fin is up or down. The fin being up or down is the interface of that gene and the environment – mechanical being one of them. So outdoors, going outdoors, has a protective effect. It has – it makes the myopia gene, which we won’t call it that again – it makes that gene associated with myopia not express. Why? That’s the next series of questions. What is it about being outside? Children who go outside more often are less likely to have myopia even if they have this gene associated with myopia. So then you have to reduce “outside” into – what did you say? Fresh air? Like, is it fresh air on the eyeballs? Is it light exposure? What is light? Is it the UV rays? Is it the Vitamin D that your body creates in the light? Is it the ability to see farther than 30’? Is it the fact that you move around more? Like, that’s what the scientific process is is that you are trying to – all you know is that when you go outdoors, this happens. That might be enough for you to go, well, great, then I’ll go outside. But if it’s not fresh air, and it’s distance looking instead, then you might be like, well, I’ll just go type on my computer outside. Or I’ll go read my book outside, because being outside is what will make my eyes better. But it’s not really being outside – it’s – I think they’ve eliminated Vitamin D. I don’t know if anyone’s looked at fresh air or anything like that. But what I come back to is like, when you’re designing research, you kind of want to work within what’s biologically plausible. Or the other things that are pretty well known. We already know pretty well how these ciliary muscles work and you do not get the tension off of the eyeball until you look at something far away. Not 30’ away, or the ability to relax the eye is distance dependent. And then you have to look at frequency. How frequently do you have to look at something far away vs. how much can you look at something up close? Like, what’s the dosage of those things that would create an eye that, at rest, although it’s not really ever at rest, that would allow for a more supple ciliary body? And then there are also things like nutrition. Like, what minerals does it take to relax? All muscles – you could have a perfect movement diet, but if your nutritional dietary diet sucks, you don’t have the building blocks necessary to even relax things all the way. So even if you weren’t busy tensing your muscles to accomplish some physical task, diet that you have the building blocks and nutrients there. You could be missing essential components that allow that relaxation to occur. So maybe you’re looking at something far, far away, but you don’t have the calcium necessary to create the cycle of events that allows for a muscle to relax. So it’s a complex question, and I know you were – I think you had asked something like, why can’t I find a study that shows it all?
DANI: Yeah. I looked and looked and looked, and like, everything has to do pretty much with light exposure. But like you said, you just can’t reduce it to that, and I know they can only –
KATY: Well, you don’t find – this is a lot of things. Like, why can’t I just see a study based on this thing that you’re talking about? It’s like, because that’s not how science works. If you – if you saw – you do! You saw everything. The study said, outdoor is protective. But outdoor is protective – if you have someone go, then, well, I was outdoors all the time, it’s not protective. It’s like, well, because it’s not actually outdoors. It’s going to be some other variable found in outdoors. If they were all contained in one study, you wouldn’t actually be able to research the variables. There is not – when you do a study, you don’t set up – “and we’re going to look at these 6 variables individually.” You don’t have the funding or the population. You know, you have to gather controls for all those people. So you just do one variable at a time and you publish it, because remember – your job is to publish.
DANI: I suppose.
KATY: Your job is to publish. So why would you do one that had all 6 and get one publication vs. 6 separate publications done over 4 or 5 years? That’s your job is to publish. So you are going to set up your investigation similar to what you need in your life. So that’s why you don’t find studies that have everything. You can get some good review studies – there will be some good review studies in the next 20 years. Review studies are often my favorite because they’re collations of 30 articles that have looked at this.
KATY: And so that’s what you would want to find, but you have to be able to find those.
DANI: I understand that, but I don’t like it.
KATY: Well that’s fine. I like it! I like it. I like – and that’s why you have people who like it, and then you have people who like it to be broken down and to not – but this is why I’m nearsighted. Because I like to read all of it, you know? I – I – I – I – are those puns? When I just say “I?”
DANI: No, not in this show. Sorry. That’s just too easy. You’re better than that.
KATY: Not really. You’re better than that.
DANI: I don’t know – was it you that wrote it? Or did I make this up? Because I frequently make stuff up, as you know. You make up words, and I just make up everything else, like entire conversations, facts, etcetera.
KATY: Well, you are a fiction writer. Every time you write me anything, you’re like, this is the fiction writer’s interpretation of what just happened.
DANI: Not a scientist. Okay. You frequently talk about, you know, if you don’t use it, then your body adapts to a certain thing. Like, if we sit in a chair and we’re always wearing heels, our calf muscles are going to adapt to what we’re asking of them.
KATY: You adapt to what you do most frequently, yes. You adapt – it’s not if you don’t use it, you adapt. You adapt to whatever you do most frequently. The end.
DANI: So are more people getting myopia because we’re just not asking our eyes to do what they’re supposed to do? And so our bodies are saying, you know what? I’m going to quit putting so much energy towards that and just let it go. They’ve got glasses, they don’t need me. I have to put my metabolizing elsewhere to run this body. I mean – what – is that just our body being protective because we’re not asking it to do things, or what? Because 60 – or 50 years – 60 years, whatever it was with the increase in myopia, that’s a very, very, very short time in the whole scope of our bodies changing and evolving. That’s like, super short to have such a huge increase.
KATY: Yeah. It’s not an evolutionary thing, it’s an adaptation.
DANI: It’s like a lot for a change.
DANI: Are we just – do you understand the question, like –
KATY: Your environment has changed radically in 50 years. And so if you could plot out the change in vision with the change – like, even if you just wanted to do outdoor time, and we don’t know any other variable. You are going to see a rapid decline in outdoor time. I bet that your children spend less time outdoors than you did as a child, and that you spent less time outside than your parents did as a child. And they spent less time outside than their grandparents. That within 50 years, you could actually get some – I mean, it’s going to be qualitative – I mean, it’s quantitative in nature, but you’re recalling. But if you just looked at how far you had to walk to school, what was the length of your school day, how many TV shows did you watch in a day, right? So like, you go to – there wasn’t even a TV to watch, you know. So what about homework, when did homework start? How many hours have you been looking at less than 18”, less than 10’ – and so you’re just going to see that alongside what seems like a rapid increase in myopia is also a rapid change in the things that we look at and the amount of time that we spend inside. It’s very hard to get people – people do not go outside anymore. It’s the strangest thing. You could go outside, if you just did a number. I mean, I don’t know how you would gather the data. But if you looked at the number of people in a town and the number of minutes each one of those were outside, you’re going to see that it’s very, very small. I feel like everyone’s like, you know, your work on getting your kids to go outside is revolutionary. And like, I don’t find it to be revolutionary. I find it to be what was happening 50 years ago, or 100 years ago. It’s very small. It’s just that we have become indoor creatures, and the idea that outside is a nutrient is kind of mind-boggling. Because you don’t need to go outside, really, for anything.
KATY: And walking outside – and so we can then separate if you looked at other variables, like, when you do go outside, what are you doing? You’re on a playground. You’re looking at still within 20-30’ which is different than hunting. You know, how many people – how many of your grandfathers of the people listening hunted? Where they were out walking long distances. My parents – my dad, especially, is a lot older. He’s 88. And so his life entailed quite a bit more – it’s not even hunger-gathering, it’s just – I had to walk to the farm – it was over 6 miles. He just did a lot more moving through landscapes and not looking at stuff that was only 20-30’ away, and so he just had these bigger eye breaks. But they’re getting smaller and smaller, and the 19 year olds – the 19 year olds that we were talking about earlier –
DANI: In Seoul, yeah.
KATY: 89%, 96%, whatever it was –
DANI: Yeah, it was 96.
KATY: 96% – it would be really interesting to create some sort of – I don’t know how you would do it. It would be neat if some of the eye research could have some sort of camera that was not inserted, but attached to the temple to see exactly what they were looking at. That would be a good study design, to be like, we are going to – this camera is going to measure the farthest possible distance from this eyeball over a period of 1 month so that you could quantify exactly how far away these people are looking. That’s an easy design. The technology I don’t even think would be that problematic. But that would be a way to further delineate distance looking from near-work, to go whoa, this person never looks farther than 20’ away. That’s – that’s – in that case, myopia would be exactly what you would physiologically what you would expect to find. That would be the physiological mechanism already understood behaving exactly as you would expect it to given the input.
DANI: Okay. All right. Let’s take a movement break.
KATY: Quick, go outside!
DANI: Let’s do our eyes, because then I have some questions I want to ask.
KATY: I’m looking out – I’m wearing my glasses right now. I hardly ever wear my glasses, but I’m looking outside at something far away. It relaxes me now, and you know, it’s weird, like, minimal shoes. When you go back to regular shoes from wearing minimal shoes, that’s how my eyeballs feel inside now. They hurt.
KATY: Yes. I can feel them tense. I can feel them being tense as I’m inside vs. outside. So it’s kind of interesting, anyhow. So that was my movement break, just to look at something far away. Try to find the farthest – the farthest, not the furthest.
DANI: Yeah, farthest.
KATY: Thing that you could possibly look at. I’d love to be more quantitative, but it’s like, I don’t need to know if it’s 350 or 200. I know that it’s farther than the tree that’s in the backyard, and then that’s farther still than my computer screen or my microphone that I’m looking at right now. So I just try to see how – when I go out walking, instead of looking at the ground, I’m always looking up and trying to find the thing that is – that’s the farthest away but that I can also focus on. It’s like, wow, I can see bird silhouettes. I can recognize birds. This is a tool. This is an age-old survival tool that you have that you just haven’t used. In the same way that you haven’t used your arms to haul yourself up anywhere, and you haven’t used your eyes to see far away. It’s just cross training but for your eyeballs. You’ve only been using – I liken it like this: if you took your arm and held a 40 pound dumbbell in one arm and you flexed all the way, one bicep curl all the way up – the way you’re using your eyes is similar to only letting your bicep curl go down one inch and pull it back up again.
KATY: If you just did 10,000 bicep curls a day, one inch down, one inch up. One inch down, one inch up – if you could figure out what your bicep – how your bicep would adapt to that, that is what nearsightedness is for your eyeballs. You are doing 10,000 repetitions a day of using 3% of the range of motion of your eye. What do you expect?
KATY: Myopia is the physical situation that you would absolutely expect from that scenario.
DANI: I think that this podcast is going to help a lot of people look at it differently. [ding!]
DANI: Oh my God, what can I do? There’s nothing to do. It just happens that way.
KATY: It does.
DANI: But just because you didn’t – you had, in an old blog post, I think it was even before I started reading your stuff – and you talked about relaxing your eyes, just sitting there and consciously relaxing your eyes. And I read that at first and was like, well, that doesn’t make any sense. But then I tried it.
DANI: It’s like I’m clenching my eyes all the time and I didn’t even realize it.
KATY: And that’s bigger, though, than like the ciliary muscle – the ciliary muscle that we’re talking about – you can’t consciously relax them. They tighten or relax based on what you’re looking at. The only way to relax the muscles that I’m talking about in the case of changing the shape of your lens inside have to do with what you’re looking at. And this is one of those cases where your environment is moving you. You cannot be in a room, you know – I guess you could not focus. I guess you could let it blur out. But if you’re looking at anything, the distance at which you are looking at it, that’s doing the work at setting your shape. The only way to get those muscles to relax is to look at things that are far away, or to be in a place where there’s nothing close up to focus on.
DANI: What’s feeling good –
KATY: But now there’s other muscles in the eye. That was just that one that responds to distance. What about all the tensing your eyebrows? Or there are lots of other muscles kind of in the eye sockets themselves. So there’s lots in the eye. I just wanted to delineate – as I have used that word 100 times – that there are other muscles that you can relax just by not tensing them.
DANI: I get it.
KATY: Like squinting, right? If you think of, like, if you squint, you’re going to feel tension kind of on the forehead. So you can just soften that but a lot of times you have to realize that you are, in fact, squinting. Another movement break: if we were to take a movement break, and we are – let’s do that – is if you hold your head still, then move your eyeballs all the way around their sockets. You’ve got muscles that articulate your eyeballs, but we don’t use those as much as we’ll just turn the head. Like, if you were looking – if you orient your face straight ahead, if you look to the right, chances are your whole head will turn to the right. But you can also orient your head forward, keep it there, and look to the right by moving your eyeballs. That’s an eye – that’s using your eye muscles vs. using your neck muscles to change the position of your eye.
KATY: So it’s good to use your eyeballs without always using your neck to move where your eyeballs need to point.
DANI: You totally just answered a question I had. Those Tibetan eye charts – I never knew what those were for. It’s an elaborate thing, and you put it – you put your nose on it. You hang it on the wall, you put your nose on it, and then you just trace with your eyes without moving your head, all around this kind of mandala or whatever it is.
KATY: It’s like a pattern.
DANI: Yeah, yeah! Oh, thanks. Okay.
KATY: So it’s just mobilizing, right? It’s like stepping on a – it’s like you have 33 joints in the foot and you step on a tennis ball to break it up?
KATY: The only way to break up the tension in your eye socket is to hold your head still and move in all of the ways that your eyeballs can. So if you talk about what’s natural – if you look at animals that are kind of trying to hide themselves, like, or if you are a hunter, the easiest way to not call attention to yourself is by not moving as little of you as possible. So if you want to see something to the right, if you turn your whole head to the right, that’s a big shape that if something is looking at you it can see. It can’t see, however, you just moving your eyeballs to take a little look. So I believe that if we were in scenarios where we were kind of more in accordance with nature and needed to just see something in a subtle way – like, everything we do is so gross, right? It’s like, so big. The whole body goes plopping along. There’s not this refinement of different joints making finer or more refined movements. Everything is just, like, huge and clunky because we’re very stiff and we don’t have a lot of mobility in all of our joints. We have a lot of mobility in, like, 8 of them. So stop moving your neck and start moving your eyeballs. Use your eyeballs. Break up that tension – and then, once those muscles are used and innervated and infused, they’re just kind of – they relax their tension, right?
KATY: That’s how you get stiff, tense muscles to kind of relax is by making them more supple. This doesn’t mean just to stretch them out, it just means that they’re more used, and they’re more primed, and they can just themselves be less tense.
DANI: Okay, and on that subject of relaxing, then, do you think – when you go outside – because I know you walk at different times of the day – and then there’s dusk where it’s kind of hard to see when it first gets to become dusk, but then it’s almost like it hits a point where your eyes let go. They relax. I mean, I’ve noticed this just in my own walking or at night if I wear, you know, amber colored glasses to block out the bright lights of the household. It almost just feels like everything relaxes. Do you think different kinds of light – whether early morning light, or darkness – I mean, because we just really don’t spend much time in darkness at all.
KATY: Well, that goes back to cross training the eye. So again, eye muscles – that’s a lot of different eye – there’s a lot of different muscles that are doing different things. Some are inside, some are outside. You have muscles that control the amount of light coming in to your eye. So again, if it’s good for you to cross-train your hip joints, why isn’t it good for you to cross-train the muscle that opens and closes and allows for different levels of light? And so when you go out into the dark, your muscles in your eye have to allow more light in. They have to relax. And open.
KATY: When you’re in full light all of the time, what happens to your pupils?
DANI: They shrink.
KATY: Right, but how are they shrinking? The muscle in there is contracting to allow less light in. So being in constantly lit, bright environments is to have tension in your eye all the time. And you don’t start your day – I don’t know if you don’t – but in general, people go from sleeping, eyes closed to snap! Lights are on, and they’re right to the eye tension. And they keep that eye tension all the way until it’s time for the lights to go out, and so it’s the whole time that their eyeball was working, it’s working in a very tense, or one joint configuration if we can call the size of your pupil a joint. When I go outside, I take a morning walk. And I’ve been taking evening walks, too. So my eye muscles are being trained by the amount of light that’s coming in. It’s a gradual process, right? They start really wide open because I get up and I stay in the dark, I get dressed, I go outside in the pitch black. I’ll walk for an hour and a half and the first 45 miles – I’m sorry, did I just say miles?
DANI: Dang! You went from 5 to 45! Wow!
KATY: The first 45 minutes it’s dark. But it’s not all dark, it’s slowly coming up to sunlight.
KATY: Which means my eye shape that the muscles that allow light into my eye, they’re not just like dark-dark-dark-dark-sunrise-oop!
KATY: It’s a gradual process. So if you looked at every diameter of your pupil, every degree, if you will, as a different joint configuration, you exposing yourself to sunrise and sunset is this very gentle way of mobilizing your joint through its full range of motion.
KATY: So that’s another reason to go outside and enjoy the sunrise and the sunset and to move outside. The amount of light is moving you. And if you don’t want tense eyeballs all the time, then you’re going to have to live some of your life in the dark and transition to – transition over 30 minutes to different levels of light – or else you’ll never work those ranges of motions. It’s either open or closed, open or closed.
KATY: Very quick reflexes.
DANI: I noticed that when I lived in Washington, I would walk in the dark in the morning and I always had a headlamp so I could, you know, see what I was doing. And then in Montana, something happened and I forgot it, or whatever, and I had to walk in the dark, and I noticed that I saw better in complete darkness.
DANI: And it was just – it blew my mind.
KATY: Yeah. That’s the thing –
DANI: It was easier to see.
KATY: You can see better, but that’s the thing – do you mean see better, like, a lot of people would say, well, I can see better with a flashlight. It’s like, well, you can see what the flashlight is on better. But you can’t see everything around the flashlight better. It’s only if you allow your eyes to accommodate to the dark that you can see everything better – not as good as you can see it with a flashlight, but you can see it better than once your eyes are looking in the dark. So it’s interesting because you know, we – my walking buddy and I – used to go downtown – because there are – there’s wild animals where we live. There’s mountain lions and coyotes –
DANI: Just like window shopping?
KATY: Well, we used to go downtown in the winter –
DANI: No, not you – the animals.
KATY: Gosh. I don’t even like to think about that. I just resolve to go, like, well, we could be out here, or we could be downtown where it’s well lit. You know, like the amber lighting. It’s still dark, but we were just walking on sidewalks and it felt safe. But then something happened and we didn’t feel as safe downtown just because we got kind of sketched out by some people one time, so we’re like, you know, why aren’t we walking? To really be, like, you’re going to have to deal with fear no matter wherever you are, and it just turned out that I preferred walking through the wilderness with someone else – and we have a dog with us – and just dealing with the nature, you know, the nature danger – and I don’t even feel it as danger, I just needed to feel accustomed. And now, when I walk, I don’t have this kind of dull, I’m chatting with my friend walking thing – I am so acute. My sensory – like, I can hear every crack, I can hear every bird. I am learning what nature sounds like, because I would rather immerse myself in the dangerous wilderness than a dangerous urban situation. I felt like my chances were better in nature.
DANI: That’s cool.
KATY: I was like, you know what, I have respect for these animals, they have it for me, I am part of this world – wow, my eyes! I have learned to see better. And to see shapes, and we could see people – there’s other people out there walking with us.
DANI: Sure. That’s cool.
KATY: Emerging out of the darkness – to see someone wearing pitch black, and to see them – to go, I didn’t know what it was at first. Because they would be a couple hundred feet away, but then you just start to see, like, even if something is all black, even if there’s no light, and you’re only looking at all black silhouettes of things, you can see movement better when your eyes get stronger at seeing in the dark. So I just feel like I’m cross training. It’s been amazing.
DANI: And do you still take the blind morning walks where you take your glasses off?
KATY: I don’t do that in the dark.
KATY: That was more of like a summer thing, because I don’t think I have – I will take my glasses off for the bulk of my walk, and talk about eye relaxation.
KATY: Eye relaxation that I can never get. But I can see just – I can see just well enough. I’m not focusing really on anything but my eyeballs are just relaxing, and you know, your prescription kind of varies throughout the day a little bit, so I would be – I would love to do some sort of experiment if I could get an eye doctor to give me an eye exam at night after being in my glasses all day long and living my life, doing podcasts and whatnot, vs. right after walking outside for 90 minutes without anything. It’d be really interesting to see how those two differ. Any takers? Any eye doctors want to come out here and do that for me? I can see better –
DANI: Yeah, that’s what I want to know.
KATY: I can definitely see better without my glasses after walking for 90 minutes than I can – you know what? I could probably do a very cheap – you know, your prescription is just simply the inverse of the last distance I think in meters. I think that it’s something to do with that. I could have someone – this is a good experiment. Are you ready? You could do this, too. This would be a great homeschool experiment. Do your kids wear glasses?
DANI: One of them does.
KATY: You would measure the distance from them standing without their glasses – like, say before they go to bed. You’re going to be like, although you should do it in the same light. What distance do you have to hold something from their face for their ability to be able to read it? The closest possible distance, or the farthest possible distance that they can still focus on it? Then, in the morning, go out and take a walk, and then repeat that experiment and see if that distance doesn’t change. Because that’s essentially what your prescription is telling you.
KATY: So it’s – like, yeah. Negative 7. That’s – that would be a good, fun experiment to see if there’s any change. And I would probably say to do it after one day, but do that experiment every day for a month, and plot your data there.
DANI: That is a good project.
KATY: The end. It’s fun. It’s math, it’s measure. It’s the scientific process. It’s a great, fun thing. And it would just be interesting to see if that changes at all.
DANI: If a child – you know, your child had glasses quite early, you know, first grade or younger – would you get that filled or wait? Because their eyes change – my little girl was, they said in the 1st grade, well, she could wear glasses, but the eyes change. And so we opted to not, and just let her just do what she’s doing.
KATY: That’s like – you know, that is a question that I don’t feel I can answer, because –
DANI: That’s fine.
KATY: It has more to do with a larger philosophy. Everything that I’m talking about goes into one big philosophy of something. So if you’re not going to change anything else, you’re like, you know what? We read this, and we decided that we are getting rid of our television, and we are going to prioritize 5 miles of outdoor walking every day. Like, that would be how I – if you’re going to ask what would I do? That’s what I would do. I would just change all of the other components of my life. I wouldn’t just not get glasses, you know what I mean?
KATY: Because I would be like, I’m going to change the input more so than I’m going to change how I’m dealing with the symptom. Needing glasses is a symptom. So if you don’t want to change the input that brought that about, you go, like, this is the path that I’m on. I’m on this particular path of dealing with symptoms as they arise from the particular lifestyle, where I’m like, oh, that’s a symptom of this lifestyle? Oh. I will change this lifestyle. That’s how I deal with it.
DANI: Okay. On that note, then, if your kid had glasses, would you recommend that they take breaks like you do?
KATY: You mean if someone’s listening to this right now, should they walk?
DANI: I mean, sometimes my son just doesn’t – he takes off – it’s easier for him to not have his glasses sometimes when he’s doing things.
KATY: Then why is he wearing them?
DANI: Well, because for other things he has to have them. He can only see – we’ve actually played the game where it’s like, how far out can you go when you can’t see this? But just for that relaxation thing.
KATY: I mean, it sounds like he’s driving – are you saying, should I continue to allow him to take eye breaks?
DANI: I’m not really asking for me –
KATY: Yeah, yeah. It’s essentially a cast – see, that’s the problem with glasses. Once – you have to again consider, like, the amount of close-up looking that we do is unnatural for a human. It’s certainly a requirement of society: get reading, do your homework and do this kind of stuff. But it’s not really – like, distance looking is more useful and more of value in nature. You know? When your survival depends on it. But it sounds like he is facilitating what he needs pretty well – to take breaks. So I would say only wear the glasses when you absolutely need them, because when you wear them all the time, now it’s a cast. And now that – the ring of tension is going to be set based on the glasses that you set in front of your face. So the glasses themselves are going to induce repetitive positioning of your eye, but if you could, again, still look at – another fun homeschool lesson would be like, what did I look at today? And if you could –
DANI: Oh, yeah – that’s good, actually.
KATY: There’s all these Go Pros, right? If someone just put a Go Pro on their shoulder and just said, I want to see what you’ve been looking at all day. So for someone who has been looking to buy a Go Pro, homeschools, and wants to put it on their homeschool tab – a Go Pro instead of measuring the rarest of cool things that you do, what if you just set that on the shoulder of your kid, so that your kid themselves could see the hours on the computer?
KATY: On the screen. And then you could plot it. You could say, okay, here’s an hour and a half of film, measure the distance between you and your computer, and now you can plot the distance. These are – this is how you essentially quantify this problem. But it would be fun for kids! You know, homeschooled kids – or any kid. You don’t have to be homeschooled, it’s something interesting to teach your kid. This is the project, wear your Go Pro. You’re going to wear it at school; you’re going to wear it everywhere.
DANI: I don’t think it’s just for kids, I think it would really behoove an adult to have a day and just write down the different distances throughout their day.
KATY: But I think that they kind of already know. You go to work – that’s how many minutes did you really look beyond your computer? And then you just look at how many TV shows you watch right there. You don’t necessarily need the minute by minute. But it would be a very cool science experiment for anyone out there who is at that age of a kid trying to figure out what they’re going to do for a science fair. Looking at distances – I mean, the incidence of myopia. You’ll have the show notes, you’ll have the stats, you’ll have this project and when you win your award, just make sure you list us in your speech.
DANI: That’s right. Katy just got your kid an A. You’re welcome.
KATY: Well, and then send it to me, because I want that data! That data is awesome. That data needs to be made public.
DANI: All right, I have one more question and then we gotta wrap it up. Sunglasses: do you wear them, and do you wear them all the time? Like, you personally.
KATY: No. I don’t. I wear them if I want to look cool or if I want to go someplace and be more under the radar. So I would wear them for low profile purposes.
DANI: Like going incognito?
KATY: Yeah, mostly. I don’t wear them for – to keep the sun out of my eyes. I don’t have a problem with the sun in and out of my eyes. I’ve also almost never worn sunglasses. Again – I’ll wear them – I’ll usually wear them to keep my hair out of my face. I wear them because it’s an easy headband to wear on the top of my head. So I have a couple pairs, and I lose them all the time. I probably wear them less than 3 hours a year total – the time that they sit on my eyes. I like them most for wind.
DANI: Wow. Mm-hmm.
KATY: I don’t like wind, like if I’m going out in something particularly blustery, I will pop them down. In Ventura where I lived before we would get Santa Anas and the sand – so I would use them in those cases, but not for light.
KATY: But if you are someone who wears them all the time, then I would just say again, transition appropriately. If you’re like, I’m kicking them to the curb! It’s like, well, but you might not have the tone and the muscles to use. So start with lighter lenses, you know, something that doesn’t block as much of the light. Go out into low light – a lot of this comes from the fact that we are only outdoor creatures in the summer. So you don’t deal with low levels of light in the winter, you go right from indoor living to outdoor living, and you don’t have a good transition period so you have all these coping mechanisms that kind of minimize input.
DANI: And it’s a whole different light in winter and the fall.
KATY: Of course. Of course.
DANI: Even at the same time of day, it’s a whole different light.
KATY: Of course.
DANI: I’ve actually been transitioning because I’ve worn sunglasses my whole life – just because whenever I have contacts on, they just were sensitive to the sun – and now I’m able to be out in bright sun without them, without my eyes watering and it’s pretty cool.
KATY: Well, your eyes get stronger, right? All this is about transitioning to a body with more parts for the environment that you wish to dwell in.
DANI: But I hate when people recognize me on the street all the time.
KATY: I know, they’re like, wait – wait – DANI! I think that – exactly.
DANI: And then I run like the Beatles down the street. It’s been a hard day’s night!
KATY: Are they huge and dark, like the kind of glasses that say, would someone please recognize me? I go through LAX all the time and you see celebrities all the time, and I’m like, you are wearing celebrity sunglasses! If you wear those, the only people who wear those are celebrities. So there are sunglasses that say, I am a celebrity. Would you pretend that I don’t want you to notice me, would you please notice me? So you want to go for some dweeby sunglasses. Like, I find used sunglasses all the time and they’re dorky as all get-out. But whatevs!
DANI: That’s awesome. All right, well, this was fun. We have to stop. I could go on and on.
KATY: We do have to stop. I know. People go on that – but you know what? Do a week of eye training. Like – like, like, like, – I’m from California! For example, what if we all said for example instead of like? For example, if you were already taking walks and trying to go outside and you’re already doing these things, just pay more attention to your eyes’ experience. It is – I can’t tell you how sensory input through your eyes and your ears will be what is missed most when you are older. When I talk to someone like my father who is still extremely vital in his brain – his sensory input is what’s dragging him down the most. It’s the fact that he just can’t see in all types of light and he can’t hear anymore. Those are the things that we take for granted that really diminish your experience, you know. And I don’t want to – you know, I don’t want to – there are people out there, I have a sister who is profoundly deaf, and I have friends who are completely blind. So I don’t want to diminish their human experience. However, it’s something that is within your capability of training and paying attention to how you use it, it’s just another way to broaden your understanding of human movement. The end.
DANI: Excellent, well said. That was very clear.
KATY: I’m not going to talk any more. Thank you. Well, thank you, Dani, and thank you everyone out there for listening – oh my gosh, we really appreciate it. And we are just joking. If you see us on the streets, whether we are hiding behind our sunglasses or not, be like, Dani! Just yell at us. That would be awesome. For more information, you can stalk us on social media, right?
KATY: You can find books – Move Your DNA – if you haven’t read Move Your DNA, I can’t recommend it enough. It will give all of these shows so much more context.
DANI: Oh, man. It’s fantastic. Please read it.
KATY: Thank you. You can find it at NutritiousMovement.com. Also, Dani, one thing that you don’t ever promote enough is that you blogged about walking every day for a year, yes?
DANI: I did. It was one of the most profound experiences of my life, still.
KATY: Yeah. Go check that out. What’s that called?
DANI: So go to walktheyear.blogspot.com or you can just type in Walk the Year.
KATY: Walk the Year, and then if you want to find out more about Dani, extremely nearsighted movement warrior, check her out at MoveYourBodyBetter.com. Thank you, you’re awesome!
DANI: Thank you.
KATY: Have a great one.
DANI: Bye, everybody.
We hope you find the general information on biomechanics, movement, and alignment informative and helpful, but it is not intended to replace medical advice, and should not be used as such.