Eyesight Improvement Exercises
March 22, 2005 11:02 PM   Subscribe

I use reading glasses for reading (obviously) and when using the PC. They're low-strength (+1.5). I wondered if anybody here has tried any eyesight improvement exercises which have caused a noticeable improvement in their eyesight.
posted by haelen to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The answer I got here was no. But if it's wrong...let's hear.

Ask metafilter: do I really need glasses?
posted by filmgeek at 12:32 AM on March 23, 2005

eyes don't work in a way that makes it possible to improve with exercise for most problems. it's like doing weight training to make your legs longer.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:39 AM on March 23, 2005

I also asked a similar question a few months ago and I got similar responses to filmgeek.

The popular consensus seems to be that it's not necessarily a bad thing to perform eye exercises, just don't expect to lose the glasses.
posted by purephase at 4:50 AM on March 23, 2005

I'm 43. I don't have glasses, nor do I usually have trouble seeing. My parents both had glasses for reading since their late thirties. If I'm super-tired and/or stressed, print occasionally becomes hard to read.

I often hear people talking about having tired eyes, and having to "strain to see". I've always found that straining or squinting makes my vision worse, not better, and the thing to do if I'm having trouble reading is get up and go for a walk. When I do that, my tired eyes generally come good in about five minutes.

Since I was about 30, I've been in the habit of doing simple eye exercises every day; I do a single session, usually soon after breakfast, of about twenty reps of look at something near, look at something far, look at something near, look at something far... making sure I'm relaxed and comfortable before I start, and don't change from far to near or near to far until whatever I'm looking at has been quite in focus for longer than not. The whole lot takes less than two minutes.

Last year I attended a weekly yoga class for a few months. One of the exercises in that class was an eye one: look straight ahead, then moving only the eyes, look up as far as possible, down as far as possible... for about ten reps, moving the eyes slowly and as smoothly as you can; don't look AT things while you're doing this, just let the world slide past so your eyes don't move in saccades. Then do the same thing only left-right; then same again for round and round, clockwise, with your eyes staying as far away from straight-ahead as you can get them; then same again for anti-clockwise. Between groups, spend a few seconds looking straight ahead. After the whole lot, rub your hands together furiously until they get really hot, then press your palms gently over your closed eyes.

I still do those every now and again; they're one of the few yoga routines I haven't let slip. I don't know if they actually improve vision but I'm sure they can't hurt it, and my eyes always feel really nice afterwards.

The way I figure it is: most people don't do any kind of deliberate regular eye exercise. I do. They cost me no money, very little time, and I can't see how they could possibly be harmful. The only way I'm ever going to find out whether they actually do any good is to keep doing them until I'm either (a) very very old and still have workable vision, at which point I will come back and give you a proper answer or (b) annoyed by frequent inability to see properly, at which point I will go and get glasses.

Oh, yeah: when you're using a PC, make sure you have the monitor set up so that the top of the screen is level with your eyes when your chair is at the right height to make your forearms horizontal when you type. That way your neck and shoulders won't tense up so much, and your whole face (including your eyes) will stay more relaxed.

Also, if you haven't already done so, crank the screen refresh rate up as high as it will go (85Hz is good); a lot of PC screens default to a 60Hz refresh rate, resulting in a flicker your central vision probably won't perceive but your peripheral vision probably will, which makes your eyes feel tired much sooner than they need to. Alternatively, get a good flat-panel LCD display, because those don't flicker at all.

If you are running an LCD panel, make sure your PC's display resolution is set the same as the LCD's native resolution (most are 1024x768, some larger ones are 1280x1024) and then hit the Auto button on the display's front panel to lock the video signal in properly. This will make the display sharp instead of blurry. If it also makes onscreen text smaller than you're comfortable with, don't go back to lower resolution - select larger fonts instead.

If you've become accustomed to using such a panel in blurry mode, it might take you a day or two to accustom yourself to using it at native resolution. Stick with it, it's worth it. If your eyes are constantly looking at blurry text, they are going to be making themselved tired trying to focus on it.
posted by flabdablet at 5:25 AM on March 23, 2005 [1 favorite]

First the physiology. The lens that does the focussing in the eye is made from a "bag of jelly" - it is easily distorted. Its natural shape is spherical. This bag is surrounded by a ring of muscle fibers shaped like an inner tube. Since muscles only apply force when contracting, the action of those muscles is to compress the lens and make it focus more strongly.

Outside of this ring of muscle are radially directed muscle fibers, rather like the spokes on a bicycle wheel. When these contract, they pull the lens flat, weakening its ability to focus. The brain automatically alternates signals to the ring and the spokes, causing the focus to "hunt" for the sharpest image, a process which goes on persistently.

If we spend the majority of our waking time reading (paper or screen) this is very much akin to maintaining our arms in more or less one position all day. The muscles in both cases weaken from lack of exercise. It does not surprise us to discover that our arms have grown weaker after years of a desk job, but the same happens to eye muscles. We think it entirely appropriate to join a gym and give our arms and legs a workout to counter this, but with eyes, we tend to buy glasses or contacts, which is the same as getting help when something needs lifting.

When I was in my 40's I was spending 12-13 hours/day reading and writing. One day I noticed that a distant utility pole looked like two poles. I thought that something was causing me to have "double vision". To check this, I closed one eye and the two poles were still there. I closed the other eye - same thing. Now, double vision is considered to be the result of the two eyes failing to converge properly, causing a difference in alignment of the images seen on each retina. So, my curiosity prompted me to walk to the poles and confirm what I was seeing. I was startled to find that as I approached, the two fused into one!

Consulting an ophthalmologist yielded the opinion that it is not possible for double vision to occur in each eye separately. I decided to model what was going on by playing with a circular pillow. I found that if I pulled the edges of the pillow apart with my hands situated at 6 and 12 o'clock, the pillow distorted into a "brassier", effectively creating 2 lenses. This would produce a double image on a single retina.

The reason became obvious. As I sit at a desk and direct my gaze from side to side, as in reading or writing, the focal distance remains constant. If I look from top to bottom of the page, the distance changes. Thus the muscles trying to maintain a sharp focus of the entire image have to work harder in the vertical direction than in the horizontal direction. Looking off in the distance calls for all the "spoke" muscles to pull evenly thereby flattening or reducing the power of the lens. Since the vertical muscles are more "fit" they will cause a stronger pull in that direction, thereby creating the double lens.

Now for the remedy. I decided that I needed to create a "gym" for my eyes. Like flabdablet, I engaged in "visual push-ups" (focus near, focus far) for 2-3 minutes at least 10 times a day. Initially I could only get a good focus across a distance of 5 feet or so. After a month or so, I could sharply focus from 8" to 1/4 mile or more. In fact I delighted myself by counting the number of bricks between windows on a building 200 yards distant.

As long as I do the exercises, my vision remains around 20-20. If I slack off, the acuity fails and the double vision returns. This has remained so for 20 years. And yes, fatigue and tension play a major role in this, as any athlete will tell you. When one considers how intricate the muscular coordination is that causes visual focussing, it is little wonder that our eyes tell us when we need to relax and rest.
posted by RMALCOLM at 9:06 AM on March 23, 2005 [1 favorite]

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