Blink once for yes. Twice for no. What a workout! Our eyes use muscles to move all day long. While eye exercises aren’t the same as going to the gym and pounding out some reps in terms of building muscle, they can still be helpful to keep your eyes moving as they should. Read on to learn how certain eye exercises may help train your eyes to improve specific eye conditions.
What are eye exercises?
Eye exercises are specific ways of moving your eyes to strengthen your eye muscles. They may help you to focus, ease eye movements, and stimulate your brain’s vision centre.
What conditions can eye exercises improve?
Digital Eye Strain
The most common eye condition people suffer from that may be helped by eye exercises is fatigue and eye strain. This is especially true in the case of digital eye strain. Spending time on screens changes how eyes focus. Staring at one thing without blinking for long periods of time can cause fatigue and contribute to dry eye and headaches. Moving your eyes can help eliminate this problem.
Other Eye Conditions
Eye exercises may also be beneficial if you have an eye condition that involves how the eyes work together. Practising them may help you learn how to control your eye muscles and improve focus. Eye exercises shouldn’t replace care from your eye doctor and it’s important to have regular eye exams to determine if you have an eye condition that needs addressing.
In addition to other measures to improve your vision as recommended by your eye doctor, WebMD notes eye exercises may help with the following eye/vision issues:
- Trouble focussing your eyes to read
- One eye that drifts inward/outward
- Strabismus (crossed eyes)
- Amblyopia (lazy eye)
- Depth perception
- Double vision
Symptoms caused by these conditions that may improve with eye exercises include:
- Blurred vision
- Fatigue/Eye strain
- Light sensitivity
What are the best eye exercises?
Different eye exercises may benefit different eye issues. Try the ones listed below in the category you’d like to improve.
Best exercises to prevent digital eye strain:
- Blinking – It may sound simple, because it is, but if you’re spending a lot of time on screens you may forget to blink! This leads to dry eye and fatigue.
- 20-20-20 Rule – Staring at one thing for a long time (usually a computer or phone) leads to fatigue. Shift your focus every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. It can really help reduce eye strain.
Top exercises for eye movement:
- Figure Eight – Imagine a big number 8 turned on its side about 2–3 metres in front of you, slowly sketch it with your eyes several times, then change direction.
- Roll Your Eyes – Teenagers practise this one all the time. Who knew they were strengthening their eyes? Simply look right and left several times without moving your head, and up and down several times.
Exercises that may help with focus:
- Focus Shifting – Hold your index finger about ten centimetres away and focus on it as you slowly move it further away. Look at something in the distance then focus on your outstretched finger as you slowly bring it back towards your eye. Look away and focus on something distant. Repeat three times.
- Near and Far – Hold your thumbs out, one near your face and one farther away. Alternate your focus between each thumb for about two seconds then on an object across the room, then on something farther away like across the street. Repeat five times.
What is vision therapy? Is it the same as eye exercises?
Vision therapy is like physical therapy for your eyes and may include eye exercises to help with certain conditions. Children with Amblyopia (lazy eye) may benefit from this type of therapy which can retrain the brain to use both eyes to focus. Ask your eye doctor if you are unsure if you or your child requires vision therapy or eye exercises to improve focus.
How to Keep Eyes Fit for the Future
Eye exercises can help if you spend a lot of time on screens, as it will give your eyes a break and help you shift your focus. This may cut down on eye fatigue, or help prevent dry eye. If you have a condition that affects how your eyes work together or move you may also benefit from eye exercises, vision therapy or both. Whatever you do to work out your eyes at home, be sure to book an eye exam to help keep your vision in tip top shape for years to come.