Improving depth perception is something that many athletes (and non-athletes) are interested in. It’s not a coincidence that the best athletes on the planet have fantastic depth perception!
But is it truly possible to improve depth perception? Or is it just something you’re born with?
Fortunately, improving your depth perception is something that anyone can do. Whether it be for sports, driving, or just daily life, this guide will walk you through the process!
The Importance Of Depth Perception For Athletes
Depth perception is something that many of us take for granted. It helps us live our daily lives and navigate the world safely. Most of us don’t give it a second thought. However, if you develop issues with your depth perception, the impact it has becomes quite clear!
Many issues are manageable. But in the world of sports, depth perception problems can have a significant impact on your game!
Athletes need depth perception to accurately track and react to what’s happening on the field. You’re moving in a three-dimensional space and have a specific target and goal in mind. In most cases, that’s a ball!
Whether you play football, baseball, or soccer, you must have the ability to track the ball and the other players in the three-dimensional space. Without this, you’re not going to be capable of gauging its speed, trajected path, and movement (which will make you much less effective).
For example, take a baseball player who’s up to bat. The moment the pitcher throws the ball, batters must evaluate the ball’s trajectory and speed to hit it successfully. All of this occurs within a split second. Your depth perception plays a critical role in that equation.
The same goes for a basketball player trying to shoot the ball into the hoop. You have to figure out where the hoop is while considering your position on the court. If your depth perception is out of whack, you can’t make those judgment calls. As a result, your accuracy and overall performance will suffer significantly.
All sports require good depth perception. It’s a crucial, yet often overlooked, ability that can make or break your game.
But these days, it’s not enough to simply have average depth perception if you want to play at a high level. The best athletes dedicate time to improving their depth perception to give themselves an edge and become a better athlete.
Ways To Give Yourself A Quick Depth Perception Test
First, it’s important to come up with a fair assessment of your depth perception before you can work on improving it through various exercises.
Depth perception is far more complex than blurry vision, and many different elements can affect it. All it takes is for one of those elements to go wrong to start causing issues.
If you suspect that your depth perception is lacking, there’s one quick and easy way to test it out.
Using a computer or large tablet, pull up a picture of a simple ball. It doesn’t have to be any particular ball, since the image is only going to serve as a focus line.
Hold your index finger up about six inches in front of you. Your finger should be pointed up at the ceiling and placed between your eyes and the ball image.
Now, with your finger in front of your face, focus your eyes on the ball. Your vision of the ball should clear up while your finger appears fuzzy and faint. Two faint images of your finger should appear on both sides of the ball image. Meanwhile, the ball image should be crystal-clear and in focus.
Next, do the opposite. Focus your vision on your finger rather than the ball image. When you do this, the image of the ball should become fuzzy and separated. If your depth perception works correctly, you will see two faint images of the ball on either side of your finger.
This test checks your binocular stereoscopic vision. You see, both of your eyes see two different things. However, your brain is taking that information to create a unified image with good depth perception. That’s why the out-of-focus object appears to look split in two!
A test like this can give you a good idea of your depth perception abilities. But, it’s not going to replace the diagnosis of an optometrist. If your depth perception is causing trouble with your sports performance or everyday life, it’s a good idea to seek professional help for a proper diagnosis.
Tips For Improving Depth Perception
Depth perception problems can be frustrating. In addition to affecting your sports performance, poor depth perception can impact your ability to drive, run errands, or even pour a glass of milk!
The good news, however, is that there are many ways to improve it. Addressing your depth perception issues should be a top priority regardless of the impact it’s having on your life.
Here are some exercises to help you see some improvements.
1. Give Your Eyes A Break At Home
When you’re relaxing at home, do your best to go easy on visual stimulants!
Many things at home could negatively impact your depth perception. Some of the biggest offenders are your smartphone and computer.
Staring at a computer for hours on end does no one any good. When you stare at a screen, you’re looking at a flat object. Your eyes are focused on a single point. Even if you’re viewing a movie or video with perceived depth, your eyes aren’t really working to help you gather more information.
As a result, you may lose some depth perception over time.
Furthermore, the closeness of screens causes too much hyperactivity. Your eyes are converging on something that’s only a few inches from your face. The frequency of blinking goes down, putting way too much strain on your eyes. That’s why many of us feel fatigued after looking at a screen for too long!
Take a break and try to participate in activities that aren’t super taxing on your eyes.
You can also adjust the lighting in your home to make things easier on your eyes. Many people have depth perception issues in dimly lit areas and super bright areas. The lack of lighting contrast creates little differentiation, which makes perceiving depth a challenge.
If you have problems with darkness, try getting a couple of bright lights or applying brightly colored tape in key areas. If you suffer from issues in bright areas, turn some lights off and give your eyes rest in a dark room every once in a while.
2. Strengthen Your Eye Muscles
Strengthening the eye muscles can do a lot to improve depth perception, too. When your eyes are strong, they’re able to move and focus efficiently on targets at varying depths.
There are a few different exercises you can try out that accomplish this.
The first is a simple eye-rolling technique. Roll your eyes around your line of sight. Keep your head stationary and move your eyes deliberately. Focus on items within your vision as you do this.
This is a simple exercise that doesn’t seem like it would make much difference at first. But doing it regularly can help you see noticeable depth perception improvements with time.
Another exercise you can do involves a balloon or beach ball. Hang the balloon or ball about two feet from your ceiling. Now, use your hands to hit the ball from left to right.
As the ball moves, keep track of it! Stay focused on the ball and your eyes will move with it. Your depth perception will improve because you have to use it to gauge where the ball is at all times.
Finally, you can try pencil push therapy. This is a popular technique that many ophthalmologists utilize. It’s similar to the ball image and finger test we went over earlier. But, you’re going to use a pencil or pen.
Hold onto the pencil at arm’s length. The pencil should be pointed towards the ceiling. Now, slowly move the pencil closer to your nose. While you’re doing so, stay focused on the pencil and track its movement!
This is another area where using Reflexion can help. By challenging your eyes with drills that are designed to strengthen them and improve depth perception, you’ll quickly see benefits.
3. Use Vision Training Tools
If you want to go on a more technical training route, try vision training tools.
Vision training and neuro-fitness tools can do a lot to improve many non-physical aspects of your sports performance. Light boards like Reflexion, for example, are great for enhancing reaction time, reflexes, and more. They also happen to work well for depth perception!
These tools feature an expansive board of LED lights that can be programmed to move and respond to physical touch. When you start a training regime, the lights will randomly appear throughout the board. Your task is to respond to the lights with physical touch.
Using these tools requires you to judge the distance and speed of light. You have to track the lights, which forces you to focus on a moving target.
Continued training can work wonders on your depth perception. Many tools even have training programs that are purposely designed for depth perception issues (like Reflexion). At the same time, you’ll also improve contrast sensitivity, hand-eye coordination, and more.
4. Increase Repetitions That Challenge Your Depth Perception
This technique is all about putting you face-to-face with situations you might encounter on the field that challenge your depth perception. The goal is to confront those issues head-on so that you can strengthen your response and improve depth perception.
There is a wide range of exercises you can do. One option is to choose an activity that simulates your sport. For example, you could do repetitions of practice shots or batting practice.
Alternatively, you can do unique exercises that are tailor-made to challenge your depth perception while forcing you to react with physical motions. One good option is to block shots from different distances and speeds.
Step into the shoes of a goalkeeper for a bit and have a training partner send shots in your direction. Have them move to different areas on the field and perform shots at varying power levels. If you get creative you can find opportunities for this in pretty much any sport.
Whatever you do, this activity will benefit you greatly. With each shot, the repetitive motions are challenging (and ultimately improving) depth perception. Your eyes and brain are working overtime to figure out where the ball is going. Over time, you should see noticeable improvements on and off the field.
Ready To Get Serious?
If you’re interested in improving your depth perception to take your performance to the next level, we’d love to hear from you. Reflexion can help athletes level up their neuro-fitness in ways that are highly effective, and quite a bit of fun.
Visit this page to learn more and get in touch!