Important Eye Care Exercises for Bookworms

Eyes are one of the most important organs in our bodies, but many of us neglect the importance of the eye care. We assume that vision decline is just a natural part of aging. However, that’s not necessarily true.

According to Dr. Jane Barratt, Secretary General of International Federation of Aging (IFA), “80 percent of vision loss is preventable… vision loss is no longer an inevitable part of the ageing process, as people can now age with strong, healthy vision, given 21st-century innovations in diagnosis, biomedicine, nutrition, technology and preventive care.”

There are common red flags that can show up when reading we should pay attention to. According to the Kraff Eye Institute if you find yourself often skipping words or lines, closing one eye to compensate for eyestrain, or moving your book back and forth in front of you due to blurred words on the page, it may be time to consider adding in some eye care.

In addition to certain supplements, there have been some studies that show the usefulness of eye strengthening exercises. However, it’s worth noting that there is a lack the consistency in the methodology of the studies, and more measurable data on the effectiveness of the different eye exercises are needed.

Of course, taking a time out from any visual stimulus, especially screen time, has many benefits for our overall stress reduction, and trip to the Optometrist should always be part of your eye wellness journey.

Orthoptics and Vision Therapy

Exercises for your eyes are referred to as “vision therapy”, and the goal is to ensure that the two eyes work together effectively. As shared by the New York Times, “(There are) some areas of vision therapy that have been scientifically validated, including one called orthoptics”.


Palming is a yogic eye exercise, which helps the muscles around the eyes relax which can help reduce eye stress and fatigue.  In a 2016 study of nursing students, it was shown that eye fatigue was significantly decreased  after they completed 8 weeks of yogic eye palming exercises.

  • Rub your hands together to warm them up
  • Close your eyes and place the palm of each hand over the eye on the same side
  • Rest elbows on the table in front of you, or on your chest
  • Cup your hand over each eye, blocking out any light
  • Relax and breathe deeply for two-five minutes

Blinking Exercises

When we spend time on digital devices our blink rate slows down. Normal spontaneous blink rate is between 12 and 17 blinks/min. However, our blink rate’s can be significantly reduced, from 17blinks /min during conversation to just 6 blinks/min, while reading off a screen. This slowing can cause our eyes to dry out and feel sandy, gritty, and tired. It can even lead to the development of dry eye disease (DED).

A 2018 study out of John Hopkins showed that “(DED) can slow a person’s reading speed by as much as 10 percent and can make it difficult to read for more than an average of 30 minutes.”

Considering how many of us work in front of screens, that lost 10 percent of efficiently could lead to a significant drop to productivity.

The good news is that there is something you can do about it. A June 2021 study published in Contact Lens and Anterior Eye showed that blinking exercises were able to “modify poor blinking patterns and reduce the clinical signs and symptoms of DED”.

Taking the time to consciously-blink stimulates the oil glands in the eyelids which release lubricating secretions that help spread the moisture over our eyes (I.e. tears).

  • Close the eyes
  • lightly squeeze eye lids in order to stimulate the oil glands
  • Pause for two seconds
  • Open the eyes
  • Repeat cycle for 10 seconds

Pencil Push-Ups

Pencil push-ups are commonly suggested by Optometrist to train the eyes to move in toward one another or converge when looking at a near object.

  • Hold a pencil at arm’s length
  • Focus on the tip of the eraser
  • Slowly move the pencil towards your nose, keeping the eraser in focus
  • Once it goes double, pull it back from the eyes
  • Repeat several times

Near and Far Focus

Alternating between near and far focus can helps to train your focusing system to both engage, and relax appropriately.

  • Hold your thumb 10 inches from your face and focus on it
  • After fifteen seconds, shift your gaze to a target 20 feet (6 meters) away and hold your focus for 15 seconds
  • Return your focus to your thumb
  • Repeat several times

Figure Eight Exercise

When we Track an object with the eyes can be challenging for some, so be mindful if you are getting headache or eye strain to rest or stop.

  • Focus on an area on the floor around 8 feet away
  • Move the eyes in the shape of a figure 8
  • Trace the imaginary figure 8 for 30 seconds, and then switch direction.

Brock String

The Brock String was developed by Frederick Brock of Switzerland, a pioneer in vision therapy. It can be used for a variety of exercises to train the visual system.

20-20-20 Rule

When we use our eyes for close up work, our focusing system can become tired. Scheduling regular breaks can help to alleviate some of this strain and reset us for more work.

The 20-20-20 rule is easy. For every 20 minutes of near work, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

“The eyes are the window to your soul.”- Shakespeare

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