Exposure to artificial lights or straining one's eyesight in environments with insufficient lighting, looking at computer screens and mobile devices for several hours for study or work, aging, but also following an unbalanced and nutrient-poor diet, suffering tension and anxieties, these are some factors that can have repercussions on our eyes, also causing dysfunctions in the eye muscles. As a result, vision may become strained, eyes may burn and appear red and dry, and vision may be double or blurred. Eye exercises, aimed at relaxing tension and improving the functionality of the eye muscles, are considered to help bring benefits in these cases (Kim et al, J Phys Ther Sci, 2016). But let's try to better understand what science says about the effectiveness of eye exercises and how we can practice them at home.
Eye exercises, benefits
Eye exercises are generally prescribed to treat a series of disorders that affect vision, such as myopia, lazy eye and tired eyesight. Not only that, there is also evidence linking eye exercises to an improvement in attention, working memory and response times when it comes to recognizing objects (Di Noto et al, PLoS One, 2013 - Gosewade et al, J Clin Diagnostics Res, 2013). The benefits of eye exercises can be traced back to their ability to tone and at the same time relax the eye muscles, stimulate the circulation of aqueous humor and nourish the ocular tissues (Gupta et al, Int J Yoga, 2020).
Eye exercises to do at home
We can all practice eye exercises at any time of the day. Remove your glasses and, if possible, contact lenses, if you wear them. Start with palming, which consists of intertwining your fingers together and cupping your hands over your eyes, so as to cover, without compressing, the eyeballs. Close your eyes in this pleasant warmth. Begin to imagine moving scenes, such as a cornfield swaying in the wind or sea waves advancing and receding on the shoreline. After a few minutes, take your hands off your face and start blinking effortlessly.
Then, start looking first right, then left, right and left, continue in this way for a few cycles.
Then stop the movement and look upwards and then downwards, continue like this for a few cycles.
Then move your gaze diagonally, from top left to bottom right, repeat a few times.
Then vice versa, from top right to bottom left. Roll your eyes both ways. Move your gaze towards the tip of your nose and then in front of you, repeat for a few cycles. Finally, look for two objects, one near you and one far away. Move your gaze repeatedly from one object to another in order to stimulate your vision's ability to accommodate (Gupta et al, Int J Yoga, 2020). Studies have shown that performing this exercise sequence for 30 minutes every day, 5 times a week for 6 weeks, significantly reduces eye strain, irritated eyes and blurred vision (Gupta et al, Int J Yoga, 2020).
Eye strain, other advice
other remedies, such as artificial tears, are also recommended to relieve tired, red and irritated eyes and blurred vision.
Then, a good practice, if you work a lot on the computer, is to stop often and look at objects that are far from you. The rule, suggested by experts, is to stop any activity on the computer or while reading every 20 minutes and look at objects 20 feet away, about 6 meters, from us for 20 seconds (Sheppard et al, BMJ Open Ophthalmol, 2018).
Then, practicing yoga, in addition to eye exercises, performing both asanas and breathing techniques, called pranayama, such as bringing awareness to the breath entering and exiting the body, have been found to help reduce eye fatigue (Telles et al, Head Face Med, 2006). Finally, it is important to follow a healthy and balanced diet, which ensures a regular intake of whole grains, fruit, nuts, vegetables, legumes, fish and extra virgin olive oil. In fact, these foods contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substances that are useful for vision and dry eye syndrome (Molina Leyva et al, Nutrients, 2020). Among the fruit, don't miss blueberries, whose intake has been shown to counteract eye fatigue (Ozawa et al, J Nutr Health Aging, 2015). It is also possible to use, after a consultation with your doctor, blueberry or astaxanthin supplements, which is a carotenoid contained in some algae and krill oil. In fact, taking 9 mg of astaxanthin, every day for 6 weeks, helped counteract the reduction in visual acuity following computer work (Sekika wa et al, J Clin Biochem Nutr, 2023).