For centuries, people have promoted eye exercises as a “natural” cure for vision problems, including eyesight. There’s very little credible scientific evidence suggesting that eye exercises can improve vision. However, exercises can help with eyestrain and may help your eyes feel better.
If you have a common eye condition, like myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness), or astigmatism, you probably won’t benefit from eye exercises. People with the most common eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma, will also see little benefit from eye exercises.
Eye exercises probably won’t improve your vision, but they can help with eye comfort, especially if your eyes get irritated at work.
A condition known as digital eye strain is common among people working at computers all day. This condition can cause:
A few simple eye exercises may help you improve digital eye strain symptoms.
How to exercise your eyes
Here are a few different types of eye exercises that you can try, depending on your needs.
This exercise works by challenging your focus. It should be done from a seated position.
Hold your pointer finger a few inches away from your eye.
Focus on your finger.
Slowly move your finger away from your face, holding your focus.
Look away for a moment, into the distance.
Focus on your outstretched finger and slowly bring it back toward your eye.
Look away and focus on something in the distance.
Repeat three times.
Near and far focus
This is another focus exercise. As with the previous one, it should be done from a seated position.
Hold your thumb about 10 inches from your face and focus on it for 15 seconds.
Find an object roughly 10 to 20 feet away, and focus on it for 15 seconds.
Return your focus to your thumb.
Repeat five times.
This exercise should be done from a seated position as well.
Pick a point on the floor about 10 feet in front of you and focus on it.
Trace an imaginary figure eight with your eyes.
Keep tracing for 30 seconds, then switch directions.
Eye strain is a real problem for a lot of people. Human eyes are not supposed to be glued to a single object for extended periods of time. If you work at a computer all day, the 20-20-20 rule may help prevent digital eye strain. To implement this rule, every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
What is vision therapy?
Some doctors specialize in a field of treatment called vision therapy. Vision therapy may include eye exercises, but only as part of a more specialized treatment program done under the supervision of an eye doctor, optometrist, or ophthalmologist.
The goal of vision therapy can be to strengthen the eye muscles. It also can help to retrain poor visual behavior, or help with eye tracking issues. Conditions that may be treated with vision therapy, often affecting children and sometimes adults, include:
convergence insufficiency (CI)
strabismus (cross-eye or walleye)
amblyopia (lazy eye)
Tips for eye health
There are many things you can do in addition to eye exercise to keep your eyes healthy.
Get a comprehensive dilated eye exam every few years. Get an exam even if you haven’t noticed problems. Many people don’t even realize they could see better with corrective lenses. And many serious eye diseases don’t have noticeable symptoms.
Know your family history. Many eye diseases are genetic.
Know your risk. If you’re at increased risk for eye problems because you have diabetes or a family history of eye disease, see your eye doctor every six months to a year
Wear sunglasses. Protect your eyes from damaging UV rays with polarized sunglasses that block out both UVA and UVB light.
Eat healthy. A diet full of healthy fats and antioxidants may help keep eyes healthy. And, yes, eat those carrots! They are a great source of vitamin A, which is an important nutrient for eye health.
If you need glasses or contact lenses, wear them. Wearing corrective lenses will not weaken your eyes.
Quit smoking or never start. Smoking is bad for your whole body, including your eyes.
There’s no science to back up the claim that eye exercises improve people’s vision. It’s possible that eye exercises won’t help you, but they can’t hurt either. It’s also important to have your eyes checked regularly by an eye doctor. They can often detect and treat problems before noticeable symptoms begin.