“Have You Been Working Out?” Eye Exercises and Whether You Should be Doing Them

Many people hit the gym or go on crash diets this time of year, hoping to get healthy.

Some even exercise their eyes, eager to improve vision.

But to what end? Do eye exercises work?

Can you improve your eyesight by buying a book or curriculum and diligently sticking to it for a few weeks?

On one hand, it's good to take frequent breaks when working with a screen all day, and it's smart to protect your eyes from damage with safety goggles and sunglasses, for example. Other healthy habits like avoiding cigarettes and eating a balanced diet also support eye wellness. But eye exercises that claim to work wonders on your astigmatism, nearsightedness/farsightedness or presbyopia are unsubstantiated, and here's why:

The vast majority of vision problems don't involve the muscles, but the shape of the cornea or the condition of the macula, proteins on the lens, or even your blood pressure. The muscles that support the eye move your eye ball so that you can consume information without turning your head as often or as far. So eye exercises to prevent or treat a disease would be like doing push-ups to get rid of the flu; the push-ups are misguided, but harmless.

Another popular belief is that corrective lenses weaken the eyes so that after a few years of using them, your vision has deteriorated because you "rely" too much on the lenses to do the work of seeing. This isn't the case, but it appears to be, since before lenses, people inevitably cope with blurry vision. They're more accustomed to it. So according to Harvard Medical School's Health Publications, it's not vision that weakens with lenses, it's actually the tolerance for blur that declines.

What Eye Exercises CAN Help With

When you're at a computer all day, eye strain is a risk, and a few simple ocular workouts can help.

  • First, hold a pen about 6 inches from your nose, and focus on it. Then, without moving your head, focus on the wall behind your pen. Return your focus to the pen, and then the wall again. The lens of your eye is flattening and fattening, which lengthens and shortens the focal length respectively, just like a camera's zoom lens.
  • According to the Mayo Clinic, a gentle manual massage of the brow bone and surrounding muscles can stimulate tear glands and aid circulation. Every hour throughout the workday, take a minute to put gentle pressure on your ocular bones above and below the eyes, and massage in a circular motion.
  • This last exercise is like ocular yoga. Close your eyes, and breathe deeply. With eyes still closed, slowly "look" far to the left, and hold, feeling the muscles on the outsides of your eyes as they work. Keep eyes closed as you slowly roll them to the right, and hold for three seconds.

Most eye exercises are harmless at best but at worst, can give you a false sense of security if something is amiss. Since early detection is the key to treating and reversing most age-related eye disorders that threaten your eyesight, doing eye exercises may actually give your eye disease time to progress by convincing you to delay a trip to your eye doctor.

So instead of using exercises to achieve improved vision, enjoy exercises that help you and your family appreciate how your eyes work. Strengthening your eye muscles probably won't improve your vision, but activities that support and draw attention to the miraculous workings of the eye is always something we encourage.

For questions or comments, contact Woodhams Eye Clinic.