Exercising Your Eyes

With a new year now upon us, many people look to improving their overall health and wellness. The focus though, usually lies with exercise and weight loss. Few, if any, consider exercising for their eyes.

Does exercise impact eyesight?

In addition to the many other benefits to overall health and wellness, Aerobic Exercise Can Improve Your Vision too.

Harry A. Quigley, MD, professor and director of glaucoma services at Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University said that “Aerobic exercise is known to lower intraocular pressure (IOP), which we know protects retinal ganglion cells. And short-term studies show it may improve blood flow to the retina and optic nerve as well.”

So, we know that aerobic exercise improves a person’s health as a whole and helps prevent disease. We have specific exercises for arms, abs, legs, etc., but what about exercises specifically for your eyes?

Can you improve your vision with eye-specific exercises?

A quick search on the internet reveals a variety of self-help, eye exercise programs designed to eliminate or reduce the need for glasses and contacts. These programs remain highly controversial though, and most vision experts agree that scientific evidence simply does not support the claim that such programs really work.

All About Vision says these programs cannot work simply because of the basic anatomy of the eye. In fact, “A recent review of research published in peer-reviewed, scientific journals conducted by AllAboutVision.com failed to uncover any studies showing that eye exercises can alter the eye’s basic anatomy significantly…”

This means that because eye exercises will not change the shape of your eye, and because the shape of a person’s eye or parts of the eye are what cause vision problems like an astigmatism and near/far sightedness, eye exercises cannot eliminate a person’s need for corrective lenses.

With that being said, there are certain vision problems, such as “lazy eye,” that can be corrected through vision therapy. With these types of problems, eyes are “trained” to see better in different ways. In other words, the brain and the eyes can learn to work better together in a way that corrects these types of vision problems.

Keep in mind that the type of vision therapy that can correct problems like “lazy eye” take place in an office setting, such as that offered by WOW Vision Therapy, and is not a self-help approach that can be purchased on the internet. Therapy centers like WOW Vision Therapy stress that their office-based vision therapy is not eye exercises but is instead “an accelerated development of the visual system.”

The experts at WebMD agree that if you have nearsightedness, dyslexia or excessive eye blinking or squinting, eye exercises likely will not be effective. WebMD also says that eye exercises are usually not effective for paralysis of eye muscles and muscle spasms of the eyes.

Are eye exercises ever a worthwhile option?

WebMD says that for symptoms such as eyestrain, blurred vision, headaches, increased sensitivity to bright light, tired eyes or difficulty sustaining attention, eye exercises may be affective. In addition, amblyopia (lazy eye) is best treated in early childhood through therapies that force the lazy eye to function.

Keep in mind that the type of therapy needed for these eye problems should come through a trained physician and not via the internet. For this reason, the first step involves having a comprehensive eye exam.

WebMD further emphasizes that eye exercises can strengthen eye muscles, improve focusing, strengthen eye movements and stimulate the vision center of the brain, but these exercises are usually highly tailored to the individual based on the specific problem as well as the patient’s age. Therapeutic exercises by trained professionals can help with eye muscle control and can train your brain and your eyes to work better together, thus providing significant impact for certain eye conditions.

While the self-help, eye-exercise programs won’t likely hurt your eyes, All About Vision warns against having high expectations for their success. Look for credible sources, which can be a challenge online, and always consult with your physical first before beginning any exercise regime, whether for your body’s overall health and wellness or specifically for your eyes only.