Eye Health: Exercises For The Eye

A doctor examines a patient's eyes

Daily eyestrain is a common occurrence when preforming a multitude of tasks that require intense concentration. Driving long distances, cramming for an exam with a long night of study, reading, and texting on a variety of often-tiny screens all lead to daily eyestrain. Eyestrain leaves us feeling fatigue, stressed, and may even trigger headaches. Other symptoms of eye stress include itching eyes, a feeling of irritation or pain, dryness, tearing, blurring sight and difficulty focusing, or seeing details. Continued eyestrain can lead to chronic eye stress that can damage the eyes weakening eye muscles and possibly increasing the risk of vision loss in some individuals. For those who make their living in front of a computer screen for most the day, eyestrain, and eye stress increases dramatically. Recent studies show computer raises the risk of developing glaucoma, especially if the individual is near-sighted. Fortunately incorporating a series of simply eye exercises a few minutes each day can low the risks associated with eye stress and may in some instances slow or reverse some eyesight problems. The most common eye exercises are palming, near-far focus, scanning, hydrotherapy, and head rolls.

Palming Exercise

Palming is to shield your eyes with slightly cupped hands by interlacing your fingers and placing your fingertips upon your forehead. Your cupped hands should then be resting lightly over the eyes but not touching the lids. The goal is to block as much light as possible from your eyes. If light still penetrates your cupped hands, consider closing blinds or curtains before palming. Since you should be relaxed as possible while cupping your eyes, find a position that works for you. Sitting comfortably at a table, position your arms on enough cushions, pads, or books to bring your arms to eye level. An alternative is to lie back on the floor or in bed and support your head with a pillow. Keep your knees bent and relaxed. Support your arms with small cushions or pillows if you will be palming for more than a minute or two.

Near-Far Focus Exercise

If you find it difficult to focus when shifting your gaze from near too far objects, you may have weakened eye muscles. This exercise can help re-strengthen those muscles improving your ability to focus on details. Begin by making a small 5-inch by 5- inch calendar and then place a normal size calendar on a wall and sit ten feet away from the wall calendar. While holding the small calendar about ten inches from your eyes concentrate on the first number until it is clearly in focus. Here you hold your gaze for a few seconds then turn your gaze to the wall calendar ten feet away and locate the number one. Repeat with each number on the calendar. This exercise releases tension while strengthening the muscles of the eye and improving your ability to focus quickly and easily.

Scanning Exercise

Anyone working all day staring at a computer screen knows how quickly it tires and stresses the eyes. This simple scanning exercise is easy at any time throughout the day and can quickly relieve eye stress. Eye scanning is the equivalent of getting up and stretching the rest of your muscles from time to time during the day-which is also a good idea! However, you can stretch your eyes simply by gazing around the room and making a conscious effort to scan the outlines of the things in the office. Another alternative is to scan the face of a nearby clock. Look from the center of the clock to number one, back to the center of the clock and so moving your gaze from point to point until you have covered all twelve numbers in the same manner. Keep your head in the same position as you move your gaze and remember to keep your shoulders relaxed.

Hydrotherapy Exercise

If you have ever placed a cool cloth over your eyes or cool cucumber slices on your closed eyelids, you have used a simply form of hydrotherapy to relieve eye stress. A more effective form of hydrotherapy uses small bowls of water. One should contain water that is hot, more than lukewarm, but not enough to burn yourself. The other bowl should contain icy cold water. Place washcloths in each bowl and alternate placing the hot and cold washcloths on your closed eyes for thirty- second intervals. When finished, gentle massage your eyes with a dry towel for a minute or two.

Head Roll exercise

In addition to giving your eyes a rest for a few moments while you close them to complete this exercise, head rolls relax all the muscles in your face, head, and neck while also relieving tense shoulder muscles caused by hunching at a desk all day. Begin by closing your eyes and taking at least three long slow breaths. When you are ready to begin, as you exhale slowly drop you chin slowly to your chest. Repeat several more long slow breaths while relaxing your shoulders, neck, and head. Moving slowly, and keeping your neck relaxed, rolls your head to the right. Pause, and bring your head back and drop the chin to your chest. Repeat the movements slowly and gently to the opposite side. Remember to take long, slow relaxed breaths during each step of this exercise. Repeat this sequence two or three times. Finish by slowly opening your eyes and exhaling. Completing these five simple eye exercises for a few minutes each day could help preserve your eye health and vision for years to come.

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  • Eye Exercises for Fine Depth Perception - This brief summary describes evidence that the Push-pull training method is helpful for correcting sensory eye dominance, a condition that hinders fine depth perception.
  • See Clearly, Now Method – This site offers a good summary of The See Clearly Now Method describing several exercises designed to reduce eyestrain and strengthen eye muscles.
  • Reduce Computer Eyestrain – This site gives instant information supporting the use of eye exercises to reduce computer eyestrain. Though there is also mention of the usefulness of acupressure eye massage, if you must request that information, it arrives via email. Instructions continue to arrive to your inbox for several days. This Natural Eye Care™ site has a lot of helpful information.
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  • Glaucoma Research Foundation - Founded in 1978 the Glaucoma Research Foundation is focused on finding ways to prevent vision loss caused by glaucoma by education, research and supporting those already diagnosed with this condition.
  • The Glaucoma Service Foundation to Prevent Blindness – The Glaucoma Service foundation offers live online chat with Glaucoma Service physicians. These live chats are only part of the worldwide use of telecommunications used to offer the most up-to-date information available. It is no surprise, with these innovative outreaches, that the Glaucoma Service Foundation is one of the top five glaucoma information sites in the world.
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  • Computer Eyestrain and Lighting – Along with the usual tips to reduce computer related eyestrain, this site discusses the effect the contrast of computer monitors and glaring room lighting that reflects on computer screens has in increasing eye fatigue.
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  • Children’s Eye Health: Fact and Myth – Separating fact from myth, this site offers good tips to safeguarding your child’s eyesight. In addition, helps educate parents in finding the best diagnosis and treatment if vision problems develop.
  • Protect Your Eyes from the Sun! - UV rays do damage your eyes. Certain medications, conditions, or diseases increase your risk of eye damage from the sun. Your child’s eyes are even more sensitive to sun damage than an adult’s is. Find out how to protect children’s eyesight here.
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  • InfantSEE®: Helping Infants to Establish a Lifetime of Healthy Vision – This is a no cost program sponsored in part by Johnson & Johnson, provides a comprehensive, one time eye exam to screen for potential eye and vision problems.
  • Lutein and Age related Macular Degeneration (AMD) – Research supports finds that a minimum of 6-10 mg of lutein a day is necessary for good health and may play a role in decreasing the risk of AMD.