7 Best Exercises for Eye Strain If You Spend Most of the Day on a Computer
As our reliance on computers and digital devices grows, so does the strain on our eyes. Besides the short-term effects such as eye strain, dryness, and discomfort, prolonged computer use can lead to long-lasting sight problems if not addressed.
Effects of computer use on eyes
Eye strain is a condition where your eyes become tired from intense use. Symptoms of eye strain may include dryness, redness, burning, itching, and blurred vision.
Prolonged computer use can also lead to digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome, which may cause headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, and eye discomfort.
If not addressed, prolonged computer use can lead to long-term eye problems.
Myopia, or nearsightedness, means that distant objects appear blurry while close-up objects remain clear. It occurs when the eyeball grows too long, or the cornea (the clear front cover of the eye) is too curved, preventing light from focusing correctly on the retina.
Extended computer use, such as a full-time desk job, can contribute to myopia by causing the eyes to focus on close-up objects for extended periods, leading to eyeball elongation.
Dry eye syndrome is caused by your eyes not producing enough tears to keep them lubricated. Intensive computer use can cause dry eye syndrome by reducing the blinking frequency, decreasing tear production, and exposing the eyes to the dry air typically found in air-conditioned environments.
Taking action now by weaving exercises for eye strain will help you reduce screen use's downsides.
7 Best exercises for eye strain
Here are the best practices for reducing eye strain and discomfort.
Palming creates a dark and warm environment that reduces stimulation to the eyes and helps relax the eye muscles. By blocking out external light, your eyes can rest and minimise strain, which can help alleviate eye fatigue and discomfort.
The warmth created by your palms can also increase blood circulation around the eyes and help relieve tension, further reducing eye strain.
How to do palming: Start by rubbing your hands together to generate warmth, then place your palms over your closed eyes for 1-2 minutes. Make sure to cup your palms so they don't touch your eyes.
You can perform palming as often as you feel necessary to alleviate eye strain, but ideally, do it at least two to three times per day. When you need more intensive relaxation, you can also do palming for extended periods, such as five to ten minutes.
It's important to note that the effectiveness of palming will depend on your ability to relax your mind and body entirely, so it may take some practice to get the most out of this exercise.
2. Blink often
Blinking is essential to keeping your eyes lubricated and reducing dryness. When you stare at a computer screen for extended periods, you may blink less frequently, leading to dry eyes and eye strain.
How to blink more often: You can set reminders to blink, such as sticking a Post-it note next to your screen. Or make it a habit to blink whenever you finish reading a sentence or paragraph on the screen.
3. Eye rolling
The eye rolling exercise is a simple and effective way to reduce eye strain and promote eye muscle flexibility. And as the name might suggest, this rolling is very similar to how teenagers react when you ask them if they’ve done their homework.
How to do the eye rolling exercise: Start by looking up, then slowly roll your eyes clockwise and counterclockwise for several rotations.
You can perform eye rolling exercises several times a day whenever you feel your eyes getting tired or strained. Do it at least 2-3 times a day.
4. The 20-20-20
Our eyes are not designed to focus on close-up objects for long periods and need to periodically shift their focus to reduce the risk of eye strain and fatigue. The 20-20-20 exercise is scientifically proven to alleviate eye strain and reduce its associated symptoms.
How to do the 20-20-20 exercise: Set a timer or reminder app to alert you every 20 minutes. When the timer goes off, look away from your computer screen and focus on something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. After 20 seconds, return to your work.
This exercise helps to reduce eye strain by giving your eyes a break and lessening the demand placed on the eye muscles when focusing on close-up objects.
5. Figure 8
The figure 8 is an eye exercise that helps to relax and strengthen the eye muscles, reducing eye strain and fatigue. This exercise involves focusing on an imaginary figure 8 or infinity sign and following it with your eyes in a smooth and continuous motion. It can help improve eye coordination, flexibility, and circulation to the eye muscles.
How to do the figure 8 exercise: Start by sitting comfortably and focusing on a point straight ahead of you. Imagine a figure 8 or infinity sign about 10 feet away from you, and begin tracing it with your eyes in a smooth and continuous motion.
Make sure to follow the figure 8 with your eyes without moving your head. After a few repetitions, switch directions and continue for another few rounds.
6. Near and far focusing
Near and far focusing is an eye exercise that helps to improve the flexibility and strength of the eye muscles. This exercise involves alternating between focusing on a nearby object and then on a distant object, which can help to reduce eye strain and improve visual acuity.
How to focus near and far: Focus on an object about 10-20 feet away from you. After a few seconds, shift your focus to an object much closer to you, such as your finger or a pen, and hold this focus for a few seconds.
Then, shift your focus back to the distant object and hold this focus for a few seconds. Repeat this process several times, alternating between near and far objects.
You can also adjust the distance of the near and far objects to increase the difficulty of the exercise. You can do this exercise several times throughout the day, especially when you feel eye strain or discomfort.
7. Hourly movement snacks
Taking longer regular breaks from computer work can reduce eye strain and help your eyes to relax. Sitting in one position can cause stiffness and tension in the neck, shoulders, and back, which can lead to discomfort and headaches.
Movement snacks allow you to stretch and strengthen your muscles, improve blood flow and allow your eyes to rest.
How to include movement snacks: Aim for two to five minutes of exercise each hour you spend sitting. Alternate between moderate intensity and gentle activities to cover your physical wellbeing's cardiovascular, muscular and mobility aspects.
For an in-depth guide on movement snacking how-to, check out Exercise Snacking - A Survival Strategy for The Chair-Bound Office Worker.
It's crucial to prioritise your eye health when spending long hours in front of a computer
Spending more time on our computers and digital devices exposes our eyes to a higher risk of eye strain, leading to long-lasting sight problems if left unaddressed. Taking breaks and incorporating exercises to reduce eye strain into our daily routines is crucial to alleviate discomfort and reduce the risk of long-term issues.
Including these exercises in your workday routine can reduce the impact of prolonged computer use and improve your overall eye health.