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Performing activities that require your hands and eyes to work together is commonly known as hand-eye coordination. This requires two or more muscle groups to work simultaneously like throwing a ball, threading a needle or drawing pictures. Hand-eye coordination also affects reaction time and how well one responds to daily activities. Though these skills are generally developed when we are young, the older we get the harder it is to improve or change our level of coordination. However, there are exercises that can help.
The best way to improve this skill is to perform these exercises on a consistent basis. Some hand-eye coordination exercises can also enhance agility, which is the ability to react quickly without losing balance. The following exercises may help to improve or maintain your level of hand-eye coordination.
Ball toss—While in a seated or standing position toss a small ball (six inches or less) in the air and try to catch it with one hand or juggle the ball from your right to left hand.
Partner ball toss—Throw a larger ball (12 inches or more) back and forth with another person. Performing this exercise in a standing position will be more challenging because you will need to maintain your balance while tossing and catching the ball. Stay in a seated position if you have a balance issue that requires you to use a cane or walker.
Wall ball throw—Throw a tennis ball against a smooth wall surface with your dominant hand and try to catch it with your other hand. Switch back and forth between throwing and catching with your dominant and non-dominant hand. Tossing, throwing and catching a ball works on reflexes and coordination by requiring a quick response of the hands to react to the ball moving in the air.
Hand to knee touch—In a seated or standing position, raise your arms out in front of your body. Lift your left leg up (knee is bent at 90 degrees) and touch your knee with your left hand then repeat on the right side. You can also alternate touching the opposite hand to the opposite knee.
Arm and leg circles—Moving your upper and lower body at the same time in opposite directions can be a challenge but it is an effective exercise to improve your overall coordination. Stand or sit upright holding your arms out in front of you. Move one arm in a clockwise circle and the other in a counter clockwise circle.
Maintain your focus and concentrate on the movement while performing these exercises.
Have fun and keep your eye on the ball!
Val Walkowiak is the medical integration coordinator for Loyola Center for Fitness. She can be reached at 708-327-3526.