Can we improve our eyesight on our own, or are we stuck with the quality of vision we have? Can exercises and other natural remedies help us avoid deterioration of our vision with age? It’s a popular topic, and not without controversy. Opinions vary widely on the effectiveness of eye exercises, and no research has proven them able to, for instance, improve your vision prescription. But there are some exercises that certainly promote healthy eyesight.
Do Eye Exercises Work?
We primarily think of “exercise” as relating to muscles and the expending of energy. We exercise by running, going to the gym, doing aerobics or lifting weights. During exercise, we’re pushing our limits, putting pressure on our muscles and bones to increase our endurance and become physically stronger. Our muscles respond to a workout with soreness, we then replenish ourselves with rest, nutrition and water. In turn, the next time we exercise we may be able to lift more weights or run farther.
Exercise means something different when referring to your eyes. We aren’t talking about building endurance; just because you can work on a computer for 7 hours one day doesn’t mean it will be easier for you to work on that computer for 8 hours the next day. Rather, “exercise” in the case of your eyes means that there are natural things you can do to keep your eyes healthier and promote good vision.
The most well-known name in the field of eye exercises is Dr. William Bates, an ophthalmologist who received his medical degree in 1885, saw patients and was an instructor in ophthalmology at the New York Postgraduate Hospital and Medical School. He explored why some patients with refractive errors seemed to spontaneously improve, and developed the theory of “natural” eye correction, i.e. using various techniques to rest and exercise the eyes and restore a person’s eyesight without corrective lenses. It is often likened to “physical therapy for the eyes” in its stated ability to reverse functional vision problems, in large part to a conscious relaxation of the eyes.
While anecdotal evidence supporting the Bates Theory is plentiful, attempts to prove any scientific results have fallen short. Both the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Optometric Association say that natural methods don’t work.
Eye Exercises to Improve Vision
Despite the cautions above, there are some things you can do to make life easier on your eyes and, in turn, perhaps improve your vision:
- Blinking: When we blink, our eyelids spread tears across the surface of our eyes, which moistens them and helps remove irritants. The average person blinks every 3 or 4 seconds, or about 15-20 times a minute. However, when we watch television or work on a computer for long periods of time, we blink less. If you consciously work on blinking more often while focusing on these types of activities, your eyes will not be as dry or fatigued.
- Give your eyes a break: Try to change your activity for about 10 minutes of every hour spent on the computer or reading. Use this time to go to the restroom, make phone calls or distribute things around the office.
- Nutrition for your eyes: Antioxidants can help preserve your vision and reduce the risk of some eye diseases. The primary nutrients here include:
- Lutein & zeaxanthin (green leafy vegetables and eggs)
- Vitamin C (citrus fruits and vegetables)
- Vitamin E (nuts, sweet potatoes and fortified cereals)
- Essential fatty acids (olive oil, nuts, eggs and cold-water fish) and
- Zinc (spinach, beef, shrimp, beans and seeds)
- Don’t smoke: Smoking can harm your eyes just as easily as it does your internal organs. When compared with non-smokers, smokers have double the risk for forming cataracts, triple the risk of age-related macular degeneration, twice the risk of dry eyes, twice the risk of uveitis, and can double the risk of getting diabetes, which can lead to diabetic retinopathy.
- Get enough sleep: You’re aware how a lack of sleep affects many parts of your body, but you may not know that it affects vision as well. Sleep deprivation can contribute to or be a cause of eye strain, dry eyes, tunnel vision, double vision and visual errors.
How to Ensure Healthy Eyesight
Remember, while these activities help your eye health, they can’t repair eye disease or conditions like farsightedness, nearsightedness or astigmatism, which relate to the shape of the eye and how it focuses light toward the retina. But taking care of your eyes, protecting them from sunlight with UV-protective sunglasses, eating and sleeping well and doing a couple of exercises can benefit your vision in the long run.
Barnet Dulaney Perkins is highly invested in the health of your eyes. Contact us with any question or schedule a consultation by calling (866) 742-6581.