Have you ever thought of exercising your eyes? Never thought of it before? That’s because no matter how much we like to exercise the other muscle groups and even the brain, we never really give a second thought to the eyes. Forget going to the gym or swimming pool; your eyes also need a time and place for exercise!
Eyestrain is one of the leading causes behind chronic headache. Eye exercises are most often neglected. Only when we feel some burning or strain or itching, do we ever pay heed to them. The truth is that just like any other part of the body, the eye muscles, the eyelids and pupils need to be exercised or else they too, lose their strength.
Need for Eye Exercise:
Though eye exercises cannot correct shortsightedness, squinting, excessive blinking and dyslexia, they can be of great help if the patient suffers from:
- Poor focus due to weak eye muscles
- Lazy eye or amblyopia
- Crossed eyes or strabismus
- Double vision
- Poor 3D vision
- History of eye surgery
- History of eye injury
More and more people today suffer from eye fatigue and strain because of their lifestyle and career choices. As many as 40% of the educated workforce says that they spend 10-15 hours of their 5-day working week working in front of computers. Even children and teenagers who spend as little as 5 hours per week in front of a gaming console or PC screen report blurry vision, dryness of the eyes and eyestrain. Some people who work with hazardous material also report eyestrain, dryness and itching as a by-product of their work.
There are other factors like pollution, overuse of contact lenses and incorrect eye glasses that make it important for all of us to spend a few minutes every day for exercising our eyes. After all, we only have these two precious windows to the world.
Exercises for Eye Health:
Assimilated in this section are 15 simple eye exercises that promise to improve eye health, though none of these can correct congenital eye defects and ‘remove your spectacles’ as many old wives’ tales say. They all focus mainly on improving the strength of the eye muscles and refresh tired, dry and itchy eyes. Sadly they do nothing for the retina, cornea and fundus.
Once you get started, you will find that the best thing about eye exercise is that it takes very little time and requires no equipment at all. You can start and end any time, and needn’t spend any money on expensive equipment. These exercises for eyes promise to leave your eyes refreshed and rejuvenated. It is a good idea to take out at least 5 minutes of free time to do them, as hurriedly done exercise will not help at all.
Top 15 Simple Eye Exercises:
1. The Eye Roll:
Most simple to do, this eye exercise needs you to be comfortably seated. It needs just 2 minutes to do. Keep your eyes open and roll your eyes first clockwise and then anti-clockwise. Do it slowly, trying to stretch the eyes as far as they can go. This exercise, when done for about 2-3 minutes, will make your eyes feel relaxed and able to focus much better.
2. The Rub Down:
This is a personal favorite for overstrained eyes. You can do this even while wearing contact lenses. That means this exercise can be done at any time and place, whenever you feel eyestrain and need a quick refreshing exercise. To do it, sit or stand comfortably and briskly rub your palms together until they feel warm. Now place the balls of the palms over your closed eyelids and imagine the warmth seeping into your eyes. Remember not to press down with the palms on your eyeballs. Repeat 3-5 times and get back to work!
3. The Moving Finger:
This exercise is great for working out the eye muscles and is even prescribed by doctors for people suffering from poor eye muscles. To do this eye muscle exercises, you need to be seated and relaxed. Now, place your upward pointing index finger (or thumb or a pencil) in front of your nose and focus both eyes on its tip. Without taking your eyes off the finger, move it ahead slowly until it reaches an arm’s length away from the face. Next, bring the finger close to the nose again, without once moving your eyes away from it. Repeat 3-4 times.
4. Shifting Focus:
Another easy one to do in case of eyestrain and poor eye muscle strength, this one is also prescribed by eye doctors. You can do this after working at a PC screen for more than 30 minutes. To do it, first focus for about 5 seconds on an object very close to you. For example: your pen stand. Next, shift your focus to a distant object for about 5 seconds. For example: the traffic light visible outside your office window. This intermittent shifting gives strength to the eye muscles and refreshes them too. Initially you might find shifting your focus pretty hard as your eye muscles may have become lazy and lax. As you continue doing this day after day, you will find it much easier to do.
5. Hot and Cold Compresses:
This can be a great end to a hard day at work. To prepare for it, take a bowl of hot water and another of cold water. Dip and lightly squeeze one hand towel or washcloth in each bowl. First, place the hot compress onto your eyes and eyebrows. Feel the warmth and savor it for about 5 seconds and switch to the cold compress for another 5 seconds. Repeat at least 5 times.
6. Eye Massage:
This exercise for eyes is beneficial to reduce eyestrain and dryness of the eyes at any time of the day. Tilt your head back. With your fingers, gently rub the eyelids in a circular motion for about 30 seconds. Keep the eyes closed for another 30 seconds after this instant massage and you are ready to get back to work! Remember to keep your touch very gentle as hard rubbing can cause eye injuries, especially if you wear contact lenses.
7. The Eye Press:
Having a bad stressful day at work? Here’s one exercise for eye strain that will soothe your eyes and your stress too. All this in a jiffy! Sit comfortably, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Now place three fingers on both eye lids and press very lightly for about 10 seconds. Release the pressure for about 2 seconds and press slightly again. Repeat 5 times. When you are done, your eyes will gain a new spurt in freshness.
8. Writing Messages:
No, I don’t mean Post-it notes or SMS es. Rather to soothe the eye strain and also to tone up eye muscles, look at a blank wall at least 8 feet away from you and imagine you are writing on it with your eyes. This makes the eye muscles move rapidly in different directions and exercises weak eye muscles. Do it for about 15-20 seconds. Initially this might seem like an impossible challenge; as you perseveringly continue for a few days, you will yourself feel a great difference in the agility of your eye muscles.
9. The Eye Bounce:
This is a fun exercise you can do at work, at home and even in bed with your eyes closed. To do it, simply quickly move your eyes up and down as if you were bouncing your eyes. You may even keep your eyes open for this one. Do it for about a minute and you will feel tension in your eye muscles – a good sign of having exercised them. Do this exercise first thing in the morning or last thing before going to sleep.
Not meant as slang for sleeping, this exercise refreshes strained eyes in a matter of seconds and also rehydrates them by spreading a fresh film of tears across the eyes. While sitting or standing, first open your eyes wide and then quickly squeeze the eyelids shut tightly. Hold the squeeze for about 5 seconds. Open the eyes and repeat at least 5-8 times.
How lazy are we that someone needs to remind us to blink! Blinking is fast becoming a lost practice with the onset of digitized media and poorer attention spans. Blinking acts as a good exercise for tired, dry and itchy eyes. Do it like this – blink your eyes rapidly for about 5 seconds. You will feel immediate relief from the symptoms.
Imagine a giant lateral (rotated sideways) number eight on a blank wall or ceiling. Now trace a path along this figure with just your eyes, without moving your head. Trace the figure about 5 times. You will feel relaxation in tired, sore eyes.
13. The Sidelong Glance:
No pun intended, this is simply an exercise for healthy eyes. To do this, sit, lie or stand comfortably and take a few deep breaths. Now, keeping your head still, try to look leftwards as much as you can, using only your eyes. Hold your vision for about 3 seconds and look in front. Now, look rightwards as much as you can and hold your vision there. Repeat 5-8 times. This exercise is good for improving eye muscle strength.
14. Treat the Eyelids:
This exercise is based on yoga. To do this, sit comfortably and massage the lower eyelids very gently with your ring fingers. Start with the inner edge of the lower eyelid and gradually move outwards. You can go on to massaging the eyebrows in a similar fashion after finishing with the lower lids. This is a great exercise to de-stress the eyes and also get rid of the headache that often results from eyestrain.
15. The Double Thumbs Up:
For doing this exercise for eye, you need to sit comfortably and have at least 5 minutes at your disposal. Hold both your thumbs at arm’s length, directly in front of your eyes. Now, focus your vision on the right thumb for about 5 seconds. Next, shift your focus to the space between the two thumbs, preferably at a distant object, for another 5 seconds. Now, shift your gaze to the left thumb and focus on it for 5 more seconds. Repeat this cycle at least 10 times. This exercise helps in maintaining better focus and gives better eye muscle strength.
All these exercises for eyes are simple to do and easy to remember. They can be done at home or at work during a few minutes of free time. Stop making excuses for not having enough time to exercise the eyes! Once their muscle strength is lost, you will need expert medical attention, so it is best to maintain eye health from the very beginning itself.
Dietary Recommendation for Good Eye Health:
Besides these eye exercises, there are dietary recommendations that help maintain good eye health.
- Increase your intake of beta-carotene and Lycopene rich foods or take a Vitamin A rich supplement.
- Maintain good hygiene of the eyes by washing them properly with cool water or rose water every day.
- Rose water is effective in reducing eye strain and itching, especially in summers.
- Avoid touching the eyes too much without washing your hands first and keep a check on the health of your contact lenses.
- Avoid too much sun exposure and try to wear UV protection sunglasses or a hat when you venture out in the sunlight.
In case you suffer from shortsightedness or farsightedness, visit your eye doctor regularly and replace old contact lenses when and as directed by your doctor.
If you contract any allergy or eye illnesses like stye, pink eye, etc, visit a doctor promptly and do not self medicate.
Remember that the eyes are Nature’s most special gift and you need to preserve them to maintain your connection with the world. Take good care of your eyes as they are your faithful friends for life.