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. But, unfortunately, 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, “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 and helps prevent disease. We have specific workouts for arms, abs, legs, etc., but what about activities 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. However, these programs remain highly controversial, and most vision experts agree that scientific evidence simply does not support the claim that such programs work.
All About Vision says these programs cannot work simply because of the eye’s basic anatomy. 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 cause vision problems like astigmatism and near/farsightedness, eye exercises cannot eliminate a person’s need for corrective lenses.
That said, specific vision problems, such as “lazy eye,” can be corrected through vision therapy. With these problems, eyes are “trained” to see better differently. 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. In addition, therapy centers like WOW Vision Therapy stress that their office-based vision therapy is not eye exercises but “an accelerated development of the visual system.”
WebMD experts agree that eye exercises will likely be ineffective if you have nearsightedness, dyslexia, or excessive eye blinking or squinting. WebMD also says that eye exercises are usually ineffective for the paralysis of eye muscles and muscle spasms of the eyes.
Are eye exercises ever a worthwhile option?
WebMD says that eye exercises may be effective for symptoms such as eyestrain, blurred vision, headaches, increased sensitivity to bright light, tired eyes, or difficulty sustaining attention. In addition, amblyopia (lazy eye) is best treated in early childhood through therapies that force the lazy eye to function.
Remember 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. Still, these exercises are usually highly tailored to the individual based on the specific problem and the patient’s age. Nevertheless, therapeutic exercises by trained professionals can help with eye muscle control. In addition, they can train your brain and your eyes to work better together, thus significantly impacting certain eye conditions.
While the self-help and eye-exercise programs won’t likely hurt your eyes, All About Vision warns against having high expectations for their success. Instead, look for credible sources, which can be a challenge online, and always consult your physician before beginning any exercise regime, whether for your body’s overall health and wellness or for your eyes only.