Why Are Eye Exercises Prescribed?
Your doctor may prescribe eye exercises if you have:
- Trouble focusing your eyes to read
- One eye that drifts outward or inward (convergence insufficiency)
- Had surgery and need to improve muscle control
- Crossed eyes (strabismus)
- Lazy eye (amblyopia)
- Double vision
- Trouble with depth perception (poor 3D vision)
Doctors may also recommend eye exercises for conditions involving how your eyes work together. These conditions can cause problems such as:
- Blurred vision
- Increased light sensitivity
Exercises won’t help if you:
- Have dyslexia
- Blink a lot
- Have eye spasms
- Have a paralyzed eye muscle
How to Exercise Your Eyes
Eye exercises are designed to strengthen your eye muscles, help you focus, ease eye movements, and stimulate your brain’s vision center. As you practice them and move on to new ones, you’ll learn how to control your eye muscles and see the way you should. Your exercise plan will depend on several things, including your age and your eye condition.
Here are some exercises you can try:
The 20-20-20 rule. When you’re focused on a task, pause every 20 minutes to focus on something that’s 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Blink break. You blink less when you’re focused on a TV or computer screen. If you start to notice dry eyes or the beginnings of a headache, stop and try to blink at a normal rate.
Palms for relaxation. Gently cup your palms over your closed eyes until all the afterimages fade to black, about 30 seconds. Make sure not to put any pressure on your eyes.
Figure eight. Imagine a big number 8 turned on its side about 10 feet in front of you. Slowly sketch it with your eyes several times. Then go the other direction.
Roll your eyes. Look right and left several times without moving your head. Then look up and down several times.
Near and far. This is good for people who wear glasses. Take them off and hold your thumbs in the air, one near your face and one farther away. For 2 seconds each, focus on the near thumb, then the far one, something across the room, and something even farther away, like across the street.
Eye exercises can be part of vision therapy. Think of it like physical therapy for your eyes. Your optometrist may give you a vision therapy plan in order to improve your visual skill, make you more comfortable, and change how your brain interprets what you see. The program might also include special lenses, prisms, patches, electronic targets, or balance boards.
For example, your child may use vision therapy if they have lazy eye, a loss of vision in one eye because they use the other eye more. The condition usually starts in childhood. First, your child may get glasses. Then, the doctor will put a patch over their good eye or use eye drops to blur it so they have to rely more on the lazy eye. Exercises can also force your child’s brain to see through the weaker eye, which helps restore vision.
- Yanoff, M; Duker, J. Ophthalmology, Mosby, 2008.
- National Institute on Aging: “Aging and Your Eyes."
- MedlinePlus: “Vision Problems."
- InSight Vision Center: “6 eye relaxation exercises that actually work to improve your vision.”
- American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus: “Vision Therapy.”
- Cooper Eye Care: “Vision Therapy.”