We all know how important it is to keep our bodies fit by doing things like going to the gym, jogging, and swimming. But, did you know that you can exercise your eyes as well? Using eye exercises to improve vision as a sort of vision therapy will promote good eye health and help minimize eyestrain. Note that these steps are meant to maintain your best eyesight level during the day and prevent significant further vision problems and deterioration. These can be exercises for kids, or adults.
- Sit comfortably on a chair. Rub your hands together until they feel warm. Close your eyes and cover them lightly with your cupped palms. Avoid applying pressure to your eyeballs. Your nose should not be covered. Make sure no light rays can enter your eyes though gaps between your fingers or the edges of your palms and nose. You may still see other lingering traces of colors. Imagine deep blackness and focus on it. Take deep breaths slowly and evenly while thinking of some happy incident, or visualize a distant scene. After you see nothing but blackness, remove your palms from your eyes. Repeat the palming for 3 minutes or more.
2. Close your eyes tightly for 3-5 seconds. Open them for 3-5 seconds. Repeat 7 or 8 times.
3. Massage your eyes
- Hot and Cold Compress: Soak one towel in hot water, and the other in cold. Take one and lightly press it to your face, focusing on your eyebrows, closed eyelids, and cheeks. Alternate between the two as desired, making sure to end with a cold compress.
- Full Face Massage: Soak a towel in hot water. Rub your neck, forehead and cheeks with the towel, avoiding the eyes. Then, use your fingertips to gently massage your forehead and closed eyes.
- Eyelid Massage: Close your eyes and massage them with circular movements of your fingers for 1-2 minutes. Make sure you press very lightly and have washed your hands to avoid damaging your eyes.
4. Lightly press three fingers of each hand against your upper eyelids. Hold them there for 1-2 seconds, then release. Repeat 5 times.
5. Sit and relax. Roll your eyes clockwise, then counter-clockwise. Repeat 5 times, blinking in between each time.
6. Focus on a distant object (over 150 feet or 50 m away) for 10-15 seconds. Then, slowly refocus your eyes on a nearby object (less than 30 feet or 10 m away) without moving your head. Focus for again for 10-15 seconds, and go back to the distant object. Do this 5 times.
- Try sitting about 6 inches (15 cm) from a window. Make a mark on the glass (ideally a small red or black sticker) at eye-level. Look through this mark and focus on something far away, then adjust your focus to the mark.
7. Hold a pencil in front of you at arm’s length. Move your arm slowly to your nose. Follow the pencil with your eyes until you can keep it in focus. Repeat 10 times. (Another approach is to tie an object to a hanging light string and swing it to and fro while you try to keep the dangle in focus.)
8. Look in front of you at the opposite wall and pretend that you are writing with your eyes. Don’t move your head. This may seem difficult at first, but with a bit of practice it is really fun. The bigger the letters, the better the effect.
9. Practice rhythmic movements
- Bar Swings: Stand in front of a fence, barred window, or something else with evenly spaced vertical lines. Focus loosely on a distant object on the other side of the bars. Relax your body and rhythmically transfer your weight from one foot to the other. Keep your breathing steady and relaxed. Don’t forget to blink while performing this exercise. Continue for 2-3 minutes.
- Round Swings: Focus on an object in the distance that is close to the ground. Sway as instructed for Bar Swings. Keeping your gaze on the same object, use your peripheral vision to observe your surroundings as you sway. Continue for 2-3 minutes.
- Head Movements: Close one eye. Slowly form a figure 8 with your head. Repeat for the other eye. Continue for 2-3 minutes.
10. Imagine that you are standing in front of a large clock. Look at the middle of the clock. Then look at any hour mark, without turning your head. Look back at the center. Then look at another hour mark. Do this at least 12 times. You can also do these eye exercises with your eyes closed.
11. Focus on an object in the distance (as far as possible) with a low contrasting background. Do this for a few minutes every half hour or so.
12. Make up and down eye movements, starting from up to down. Do this 8 times. Then do the side to side eye movement, starting from left to right. Repeat this 8 times. Be sure not to force your eyes further than they want to go in any particular direction, or you risk making your vision worse.
13. Always finish up either with palming or another eye relaxation technique.
- It’s more important to do these exercises for kids or adults regularly than to do them for a long time. Even 30-60 seconds of eye movement every hour is very helpful. For example, when your computer takes its sweet time to do something, you can try making a few circles with your eyes. Even the first day you do this, you should notice that your eyes aren’t as tired as usual at the end of the day.
- Taking short breaks from near work (e.g. staring at a computer monitor) to stare out to the distance also relieves some strain.
- Palming is a good method to use whenever your eyes feel strained.
- Blinking will also help prevent tired eyes.
- Some people have weakness in the ability to turn their eye in or out. You may have esotropia (also known as crossed eye, naturally turned in) or exotropia (also know as wandering eye, naturally turned out). Eye Exercises may help these conditions, but there has never been any peer reviewed research demonstrating improvement in visual clarity by doing eye exercises.
- Consult your optometrist (eye doctor) before doing any of these eye exercises for kids and adults. The last thing you want to do is add further strain to your eyes, or damage them permanently.
- When doing these eye exercises, make sure that you’re not facing anybody, or that they know you’re doing eye exercises. Otherwise they might think you’ve gone nuts.
- Doing these eye exercises when you wear contacts may cause them to suction to your eyeball. They might also move around and possibly become folded and/or dislodged, which can be extremely uncomfortable as well.
- Do not apply pressure on your eyes.
- Wash your hands before doing these eye exercises to avoid getting irritants in your eye.
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