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Eye Exercise to Improve Your Vision: How to Do Them, How They Work & More

Eye exercises aren’t likely to dramatically improve your vision, but they may result in minor improvements. They can also promote overall eye comfort, particularly after situations that strain your eyes.

Eye exercises can range from small, everyday tasks recommended for the general population as a way to ensure long-lasting eye health to specific exercises necessary for the restoration of normal eye function following operations or damage to the eyes. Eye therapy differs from eye exercises as it is a doctor-assisted method to treat optical conditions.

When Are Eye Exercises Prescribed?

Some eye exercises are recommended for everyone to maintain eye health, especially for those who spend extended amounts of time in front of computer screens. 

Eye exercises may also be prescribed by doctors, most commonly ophthalmologists. These exercises are generally prescribed to treat specific conditions or to help patients who have recently received eye surgery. 

  • Eye muscle improvement: Eye muscle exercises may be prescribed to people who have adult strabismus, the condition commonly known as crossed eyes. Eye exercises prescribed by an ophthalmologist can help patients focus their eyes inward to assist with close tasks such as reading.

    Eye exercises may also be recommended for those who have amblyopia or lazy eye.
  • Blind spot reduction: A recent study showed that specific eye exercises can affect the size of a person’s blind spot, effectively shrinking it after weeks of training. This study will most likely be applied in cases where damage has created vision impairment.
  • Convergence insufficiency improvement: Eye exercises are also used for patients with convergence insufficiency, a widespread condition that can cause headaches due to the inability to focus on objects close to the eyes. Studies have shown that eye exercises may help in these situations, but experts still recommend vision therapy over at-home exercises, if possible.
  • Eye movement improvement: In post-operative situations, patients may be prescribed eye exercises both to strengthen fusion and improve eye movement. There are a variety of accepted exercises proven to strengthen fusion, including stereograms and pencil push-ups.

    However, evidence regarding the efficacy of exercises to improve movement, known as duction exercises, is disputed and the long-term effects of such exercises are unclear.

How to Exercise Your Eyes

There are different types of eye exercises, depending on the issues at hand.

20-20-20 Rule

One of the most commonly prescribed eye exercises is the 20-20-20 rule. For every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, it is recommended to take a 20-second break to focus on something 20 feet away.

This exercise is meant to reduce eye strain and keep eyes healthy during long periods of screen usage.

Pencil Push-Ups

For those suffering from convergence insufficiency, an exercise proven to be effective is pencil push-ups. Make sure to talk to your doctor about whether this exercise will help your condition or anything else they might recommend. 

To perform this exercise, follow the steps listed below. 

  • Hold a pencil at arm’s length in front of you.
  • Fix your eyes on the tip of the pencil and move it toward your nose.
  • When you begin to see the tip double instead of remaining a single image, move it away from you until it becomes a single image again.
  • Move the pencil back toward your nose until it is just under 2 inches from your face.

Additional Eye Exercises

The National Institutes of Health suggests various eye exercises for continued comfort during working hours. Try the following to improve how your eyes feel:

  • Blink or yawn to moisturize the eyes.
  • Expose eyes to natural light sources.
  • Close your eyes. Slowly move your eyes to look at the ceiling and then at the floor. Repeat this exercise three times.
  • Close your eyes. Slowly move your eyes to the left, and then to the right. Repeat this exercise three times.
  • Hold your finger a few inches in front of your eyes and focus on it while moving it away from you. Focus on a point beyond your finger and then bring your focus back to the finger. Move the finger back toward your face and then focus on a point over 8 feet away. Repeat this exercise three times.

What Is Vision Therapy? 

Unlike eye exercises, which can be performed at home or on the go, vision therapy is exclusively performed within the presence of a medical professional, such as an optometrist. 

The primary goal of vision therapy is to improve visual skills, such as maintaining focus and peripheral vision. Vision therapy can lead to increased visual skills, as well as increased comfort for patients struggling with their vision. 

Vision therapy is conducted in-office, as it includes the use of a variety of tools and equipment to treat patients, including prism lenses and filters. This therapy is specifically catered to each patient’s individual needs, and it is not a generalized program.

Vision therapy is proven to be effective in improving visual skills in both adults and children. A recent study has shown that vision therapy is also effective for children with learning disabilities that have a visual component. 

Additionally, vision therapy has proved successful for adults who have suffered from concussions that caused visual impairment.

Tips for Overall Eye Health

While eye exercises can certainly help keep your eyes in good shape, eye health can also be improved and maintained in other ways. According to the National Eye Institute, the following tips will assist in maintaining healthy eyes and proper vision:

  • Get regular comprehensive dilated eye exams, as they can help detect eye problems before symptoms occur and damage is caused. 
  • Gather information about your family’s health and medical history. If eye diseases have been prevalent in your family, you may be at risk for these conditions as well.
  • Talk to your doctor. While it may sound simple, experts advise speaking with a medical professional who can better inform you about your eye health.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating foods high in omega-3 as well as leafy greens. In addition to this, consistent exercise can help decrease your chances of contracting a condition that may lead to eye disease.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking can cause cataracts, retinal detachment, and dry eye syndrome.
  • Keep your eyes safe by wearing sunglasses, and safety glasses or goggles when performing activities that may put your eyes at risk
  • Wash your hands before you apply or remove your contact lenses. Sanitize them and switch them out often.
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule outlined above. This will allow your eyes to rest during periods of prolonged screen time.

Eye Exercises FAQs

Do eye exercises improve vision?

Eye exercises will not improve refractive errors, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. They will not give you 20/20 vision.

Eye exercises should only be used to maintain general eye health, improve eye comfort, or address specific eye conditions as advised by a medical professional.

Can you strengthen eye muscles?

Research on this topic is inconclusive. While some patients have responded positively to eye muscle exercises, long-term effects have not yet been studied.

Eye muscles are already very strong. Eye muscle exercises, unless prescribed by a medical professional, are not known to be effective.

Can eye exercises fix the need for glasses?

No. There is no conclusive research that states eye exercises can “cure” the need for glasses. Eye exercises will not improve nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. To explore treatment for eyesight problems, speak with a medical professional.

What are good eye exercises?

The 20-20-20 rule may help your eyes from getting tired or strained while you use technology. Blinking or yawning can help lubricate your eyes to prevent them from drying out. For more eye exercises, refer to the “How to Exercise Your Eyes” section above.

Will eye exercises help with eye pain?

Eye exercises may help with pain, but it is advised to speak with a medical professional if you are experiencing eye pain or discomfort. Eye exercises may not help the problem, and delaying treatment could exacerbate symptoms and cause further damage.

References

  1. What Is Adult Strabismus? (November 2021).  American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  2. Postoperative Eye Exercises. (September 2018). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  3. The Effectiveness of Home-Based Pencil Push-up Therapy Versus Office-Based Therapy for the Treatment of Symptomatic Convergence Insufficiency in Young Adults. (January-March 2015). Middle East African Journal of Ophthalmology.

  4. Reducing the Size of the Human Physiological Blind Spot Through Training. (August 2015). Current Biology.

  5. The 20-20-20 Rule. Canadian Association of Optometrists.

  6. Exercises and Stretches. National Institutes of Health.

  7. Comparison of Home-Based Pencil Push-Up Therapy and Office-Based Orthoptic Therapy in Symptomatic Patients of Convergence Insufficiency: A Randomized Controlled Trial. (January 2021). International Ophthalmology.

  8. What Is Vision Therapy? College of Optometrists in Vision Development.

  9. Vital Visual Skills. (August 2016). College of Optometrists in Vision Development.

  10. Efficacy of Vision Therapy in Children With Learning Disability and Associated Binocular Vision Anomalies. (January–March 2018). Journal of Optometry.

  11. Vision Therapy for Post-Concussion Vision Disorders. (January 2017). Optometry and Vision Science.

  12. Can Eye Exercises Improve My Eyesight? (June 2015). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  13. The Lowdown on Eye Exercises. (May 2020). Harvard Health Publishing.

  14. Impact of Vision Therapy on Eye-hand Coordination Skills in Students with Visual Impairment. (July–September 2018). Journal of Ophthalmic & Vision Research.

  15. Smoking Can Lead to Vision Loss or Blindness. (December 2009). New York State Department of Health.

  16. Eye Exercises Enhance Accuracy and Letter Recognition, but Not Reaction Time, in a Modified Rapid Serial Visual Presentation Task. (March 2013). PLOS ONE.

  17. Multifaceted Assessment of the Effect of Eye Exercises for Presbyopic Individuals. (July 2019). Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.

Last Updated October 12, 2022

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