Ergonomic Eye Exercises
Updated: Mar 26, 2019
Digital Eye Strain is affecting everyone. From teenagers to adults, hours of breakless screen time is wreaking havoc on our eye health. Filtering out blue light and wearing computer glasses can help some symptoms of DES, but the root cause isn't found in an isolated range of the visible light spectrum.
The culprit is... ourselves. Our digital lifestyle, habits and routines. The average adult spends nearly 10 hours a day in front of a self-luminous device. It takes a lot of effort to hold your eyes in a converged position, which is what happens when we focus on something within 24" of our face. The redness, strain and fatigue is a mercy call from our eyes.
The following exercises, when combined with regular breaks from screen-time, can prevent the dreaded Computer Vision Syndrome, aka Digital Eye Strain.
Close Your Eyes
Studies show that our blink rate drops by 60% when we are looking at a self-luminous device like a computer monitor, tablet or smartphone. Take a moment to recoat and replenish your cornea by closing your eyes for a few seconds. Taking long blinks over a 20 second span also helps.
Your computer monitor and phone have kept your focal length between 15" - 24", so the next step is to relax the Ciliary Muscle by focusing on something in the distance. The Ciliary Muscle is responsible for your near focus accommodation and when it's fatigued, your ability to focus up close suffers.
Look around the room that you're in. Find something to focus on that is more than 20' away. Keep taking long blinks and allow your eyes to wander around the room for a bit. Do this for approximately 20 seconds.
For this exercise, we'll be doing some visual tracking to give our eye muscles a nice stretch. Remember to track by only moving your eyes and not your whole head.
Fully extend one of your arms directly in front of you with your hand in a fist and your thumb up like you're telling someone "good job" Keep your eyes focused on your thumb and begin to slowly move your arm horizontally to your right until you've reach a 45 degree angle (this doesn't have to be exact). Hold it there for 3-5 seconds.
Now, slowly swing your arm back towards the center and hold for 2-3 seconds before continuing to your left. Hold your arm extended towards your left and remain focused on your thumb for another 2-3 seconds before returning back to center.
Next, raise your arm vertically until it's just above your head. Focus on your thumb for a few seconds before returning your arm back to center. Now, lower your extended arm until you've reached your lap. Stay there for 2-3 seconds before returning back to center. That's it! Take another 20 seconds to focus on something in the distance and remember to take long blinks.
The entire sequence should take less than a minute but it can dramatically improve the stamina of your eye muscles.
You may have noticed that I used "20" a few times during our exercise. I did this intentionally because I want to encourage you to remember the 20/20/20 guide. It works as follows: For every 20 minutes of near vision focusing, take 20 seconds to focus on something 20 feet away or more. Combine this guide with the exercises above and your eyes will thank you.
This is, as it says in the name, just a guide. Early in the day you may feel that pushing the breaks to 30-40 minute increments is fine, then later in the day close the gap to 20.
Spread The Word
Please share this article with the people you care about. Much like ergonomic stretches for our wrists, fingers, shoulders, back and neck are a form of preventive care for our bodies, we should also exercise and take care of our eyes. Digital Eye Strain is only going to increase unless we start doing a better job of protecting our eyes.
Thank you for reading.