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Do Eye Exercises Actually Work?

Eye exercises may help with digital eye strain and other conditions. Knowing a few simple eye exercises can make the hours you spend in front of a computer more pleasant and easier on your eyes.

Read on to find out what eye exercises are exactly, what conditions they can help with, and how to do them at home or work.

What Are Eye Exercises?

Eye exercises usually include conscious movements of the eyes and focusing on objects near and far. Some of them are very simple, requiring only that you move your eyes in a specific direction. Others may require props like a string and beads.

Eye exercises are nothing new. They have long been a part of Chinese Traditional Medicine. They are also used with vision therapy, which can help patients with amblyopia, strabismus, dyslexia, and other conditions. But they can also be useful on their own.

Perhaps the best-known eye exercise is the 20-20-20 rule recommended by the Canadian Association of Optometrists and eye health specialists around the world. We’ll show you how to do it later in this post. But first…

Do Eye Exercises Work?

According to a Harvard Medical School article, eye exercises may help relieve eye strain and possibly delay the need for glasses. Studies indicate that eye exercises can improve visual field deficits and convergence insufficiency, in which the eyes cannot focus together when looking at nearby objects.

Eye exercises may also help with a variety of conditions including strabismus, amblyopia, nystagmus, myopia, motion sickness, and dyslexia. What’s more, a 2013 study found that that eye exercises may help enhance cognitive tasks related to memory and attention.

closeup of human eye seen from profile

However, there’s currently no scientific evidence to support claims that eye exercises can improve vision or cure serious eye conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, or age-related macular degeneration (AMD). More research is needed to fully understand the effects of eye exercises on myopia and the loss of visual acuity that often comes with age.

Until research proves otherwise, eye exercises are not a replacement for glasses or contact lenses in that they cannot correct vision problems.

However, eye exercises are still useful for relieving eye strain, making your eyes feel better, and promoting mindfulness. They may also help with screen-induced dry eye, by encouraging you to blink more often when using a screen.

How to Do Eye Exercises

Here are some of the best eye exercises for eye strain that you can do at home, at work, and in most other places. They are easy, convenient, and will leave your eyes feeling better.

20-20-20

The 20-20-20 eye exercise is one of the best-known exercises for relieving digital eye strain. It’s also one of the simplest.

  1. Every 20 minutes, take your eyes off the screen.
  2. Look at something 20 feet away.
  3. Maintain your gaze on the object for 20 seconds.
  4. You may need to set a reminder on your phone or computer before doing this eye exercise becomes a habit.

Note: If you can’t look 20 feet away because of your office setup, you can close your eyes for 20 seconds or longer before resuming work.

This exercise can also be helpful if you experience eye strain after reading for extended periods.

Slow Eye Movements

Moving your eyes more works your ocular muscles. When you stare at a screen, you may not move your eyes as much as normal.

man with laptop looking away from screen out the window

Note: It’s better to perform this eye exercise away from screens or any other bright lights.

  1. Blink a few times naturally.
  2. Without moving your head, move your eyes slowly up and then move your eyes slowly down.
  3. Repeat three to five times.
  4. Still without moving your head, move your eyes slowly left and then slowly right.
  5. Repeat three to five times.

Seated Focus Change

Changing focus is part of many eye exercises. Here’s a simple exercise that does just that. It’s best to do this one seated.

  1. Hold your thumb a few inches in front of your eye and focus your gaze on it.
  2. Move your thumb slowly in front of you, away from your face.
  3. Next, focus your gaze on something farther away, such as a tree in the window.
  4. Return your focus to the finger and bring it close to your eye again.
  5. Shift your focus again on a faraway object.
  6. Repeat three times for each eye, using your right thumb with your right eye and your left thumb with your left eye.

Figure Eight

For this exercise, you will need a bit of space in front of you. You can do it in a spacious office, in the living room, or while commuting to work.

  1. Focus your gaze on the floor or ground 8 to 10 feet (2.4 to 3 meters) away from you.
  2. Move your eyes slowly in the shape of an 8 turned on its side, from left to right.
  3. Next, move your eyes over the imaginary 8 from right to left.
  4. Repeat the complete movement three times.

Eye Exercises and Dry Eyes

If your eyes feel tired and dry after using your computer, the exercises above can give them a much-needed break.

But keep in mind that while some eye exercises help relieve eye strain symptoms, dry eyes may have underlying causes such as tear gland dysfunction, Vitamin A deficiency, or a diet that lacks the essential nutrients your eyes need to produce quality tears.

Our quick online dry eye test can help you find out within minutes if you have dry eyes. Knowing whether your symptoms match those of dry eye disease is the first step to managing the condition effectively.

Take the Dry Eye Test.