Eye Calisthenics: How To Train Your Eyesight

Physical fitness often emphasises external strength and visible muscular development. That is why the paradigm-shifting approach when starting calisthenics: it prompts individuals to look inwards and leverage their body weight for resistance. 

Yet, the evolution of calisthenics continues beyond the boundaries of body muscles. It takes an unexpected turn, venturing into the intricate arena of ocular health. This gained traction in the early to mid-20th century after American ophthalmologist Dr. William Horatio Bates produced the Bates Method, a series of exercises and techniques intended to “fix” vision without the use of glasses. While this has long been contested, the Bates Method prompted discussion within the eye care community on how safe and effective eye exercises can help with ocular health.

Does this sound intriguing? Below, we delve deeper into the science behind common vision problems and the exciting role of eye calisthenics.

Exercising for vision improvement

Traditional calisthenics is intended to provide enduring strength gains that remain while you’re not actively engaged in the activity. This intentional design is what makes it effective for visual enhancement. Individuals with myopia report enhanced visual acuity following physiotherapy treatment and eye exercises, with studies proving a low likelihood (less than 5%) that the observed improvement in vision occurred randomly.

These suggest that eye calisthenics can increase the efficiency of extraocular muscles and boost the refractive error correction provided by aids like prescription glasses. For beginners, we’ve listed some of the most popular eye exercises, each aiming to enhance vision, alleviate eye strain, and promote overall ocular well-being.

Focus change

The exercise is a foundational practice for eye calisthenics, emphasising visual flexibility.

  • Seating position: Begin by seating yourself comfortably, ensuring your back is straight and shoulders relaxed.
  • Finger focus: Hold one of your fingers a few inches away from your eye, choosing a point of focus.
  • Slow movement: Gradually move your finger away from your face while maintaining focus. Observe the changes in clarity and perception.
  • Shift of gaze: Redirect your focus to an object in the distance, allowing your eyes to adapt to the shift in depth perception.
  • Return to finger: Bring your finger back closer to your eye, reestablishing focus, and repeat the process three times.

The focus change exercise serves as a dynamic warm-up for your eyes, encouraging them to adjust rapidly to changes in proximity and depth.

Near and far focus

This exercise strengthens visual acuity and optimises the eye’s ability to adapt to varying distances.

  • Seated position: Sit comfortably, maintaining an upright posture to facilitate better focus and concentration.
  • Thumb focus: Hold your thumb approximately 10 inches from your face, making it the focal point of your gaze.
  • Fixed duration: Concentrate on your thumb for 15 seconds, allowing your eyes to lock onto this nearby point.
  • Distant object: Shift your focus to an object 10 to 20 feet away, engaging the muscles responsible for longer-range vision.
  • Sequential repetition: Repeat this sequence – alternating between near and far focus – for a total of five cycles.

Through the near and far focus exercise, you encourage your eyes to transition between short and long distances, fostering adaptability seamlessly.

Figure eight

Experts designed this exercise to enhance eye coordination and promote smooth eye movements.

  • Fixed point: Identify a point on the floor roughly 10 feet before you, establishing it as your visual anchor.
  • Imaginary tracing: Visualise a figure-eight pattern in the air, tracing it with your eyes while keeping the identified point at the centre of your focus.
  • Time intervals: Sustain this imaginary tracing for 30 seconds, allowing your eyes to follow the continuous flow of figure eight.
  • Directional switch: After the initial duration, reverse the direction of your imaginary tracing for an additional 30 seconds.

The figure-eight exercise challenges your eyes to coordinate movement seamlessly, enhancing their ability to follow patterns precisely.

20-20-20 rule

In our modern era dominated by digital screens, the 20-20-20 rule stands as a crucial practice to alleviate digital eye strain.

  • Consistent intervals: Every 20 minutes, consciously divert your gaze from the screen or close-up work.
  • Distance focus: Look at something 20 feet away, allowing your eyes to relax and reset.
  • Duration: Maintain this distance-focused gaze for a refreshing 20 seconds before resuming your close-up activities.

The 20-20-20 rule serves as a preventative measure, counteracting the strain imposed by prolonged periods of screen engagement.

Understanding vision issues and solutions

A spectrum of vision issues affects individuals globally, ranging from astigmatism to age-related macular degeneration. In the UK, rates of myopia alone have soared to a frequency of 20.0% to 29.2% among older adults, indicating an emerging “epidemic” with a shift toward younger age at onset and greater severity. Experts commonly attribute this to the rise of the digital age and increased time spent indoors.

Today’s go-to solution for addressing vision problems is corrective eyewear, most commonly prescription glasses that refract light to help users see more clearly. They come in a range of frames and lenses, making them versatile for daily use, specific lifestyle preferences, and vision correction for particular eye conditions. 

Take the activewear brand Oakley, which is geared for more active individuals. Its prescription glasses come in classic designs like the Holbrook and offer innovative features like TruBridge Unobtainium nose pads that prevent it from slipping off the face during physical activity. 

Meanwhile, industry leaders like ZEISS offer prescription glasses with progressive lenses that are designed for individuals with specific refractive errors like farsightedness. These incorporate two prescriptions in a single lens, allowing for clearer vision both at a further distance as well as for close work to prevent conditions like computer vision syndrome.

This makes corrective eyewear an accessible solution that provides both clear vision and better relief from eye strain and fatigue. However, their effectiveness can be further supplemented by fitness techniques. That’s where eye calisthenics can help by strengthening your vision and simultaneously delaying changes in your prescription.

Considering safety and caution

Embarking on the journey of eye calisthenics requires a thoughtful and strategic approach to ensure safety, effectiveness, and long-term benefits. 

To begin, aim for a minimum of three to four sessions per week, establishing a consistent and impactful routine that aligns with your schedule. 

You can amplify the efficacy of eye calisthenics through regular and committed practice, just like any fitness regimen.

Remember that exercising patience is paramount, and positive changes in vision may require dedicated effort over time. If consistent, you may notice statistically significant reduction in eye fatigue after six weeks, as a previous study with yoga ocular exercises has confirmed. 

If, at any point, you experience discomfort, pain, or unusual sensations, cease the activity immediately. 

Remember that eye calisthenics does not substitute other treatments for vision correction, so consult an eye care professional to address concerns promptly. This ensures that your eye health remains a priority throughout the process.

As we continue to explore the intersection of fitness and eye health, eye calisthenics stands as a testament to the adaptability and resilience of the human body, even in areas as intricate as our vision. 

Therefore, the journey toward improved eye health will become a gradual, transformative process.

Give it a go.

Leave a comment