The truth about eye exercises

by David Jenyns

By Dr. Steven M. Beresford

There are two common myths about eye exercises. The first myth is the Bates Method claim that eye exercises can help everybody “throw their glasses away”. The second myth is the eye care establishment’s claim that eye exercises don’t work. The truth lies somewhere in between.

Research shows that less than 2% of children have deformed eyeballs, and that there are two major causes of poor vision. The first cause is TV, computers, and long periods of reading. These activities force the eyes to focus too close and creates what is known as nearpoint stress. This can affect the eye muscles and deform the eyeball, resulting in nearsightedness (myopia) and/or astigmatism. The second cause is the aging process, resulting in the loss of focusing power known as presbyopia.

These vision problems can be improved with eye exercises, just like you can improve the body with physical exercises. The critical question is, how much improvement can eye exercises give you?

How Eye Exercises Work

The eye’s focusing power is controlled by the ciliary muscle, which surrounds the inner lens. Likewise, the shape of the eyeball is influenced by the six extraocular muscles that surround it. The performance of all these muscles can be improved with eye exercises, often quite quickly.

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The Bates Method eye exercises date back to the 1920s and are relaxation techniques that eliminate eyestrain. However, they don’t actually strengthen the eyes. In contrast, modern techniques known as vision therapy eye exercises increase the power of the focusing system and stimulate the flow of nutrients to the eyes, making them stronger and healthier.

Understanding The Clinical Evidence

Quite a lot of research has been carried out on the Bates Method eye exercises. The results show that many people experience improvement but the claims that you can “throw away your glasses and regain 20/20 vision” are exaggerated. We agree with the eye care establishment that there is no clinical evidence to support these claims.

In contrast, vision therapy eye exercises have been proven effective in clinical studies. The results show that although some people completely eliminate glasses or contact lenses, most people go from full-time corrective lenses to only using them for a few activities such as driving. In addition, as the eye exercises make the eyes stronger, it’s usually possible to go back to weaker glasses from previous years.

Here are the results of a recent clinical study of vision therapy eye exercises that was submitted for publication in the Journal of the American Optometric Association vision therapy

“21 subjects with common visual problems including myopia, presbyopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism completed a 6 week course of eye exercises. 19 subjects obtained improvements in refractive error, 19 subjects obtained improvements in visual acuity, and 16 subjects reduced their dependency on corrective lenses so they no longer needed them or only wore them part of the time.”

Will Eye Exercises Work For You?

If you continue to rely on corrective lenses, your vision will almost certainly get worse as your glasses become stronger and your eyes become weaker. In contrast, most of the eye exercises on the market will improve your vision. However, beware of claims that eye exercises will enable you to “throw away your glasses and regain perfect vision.” These claims are almost certainly exaggerated and are not supported by the clinical evidence.

Author Information

Dr. Beresford is President of the American Vision Institute vision therapy, which was founded in 1979 and is dedicated to research and development of vision therapy eye exercises. The American Vision Institute publishes the Power Vision Program of vision therapy eye exercises, which was developed in association with Dr. Merrill J. Allen (Indiana University) and Dr. Francis A. Young (Washington State University).

Dr. Beresford can be contacted at visiontherapy.2020@yahoo.com

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