The truth about eyerobics

Exercises for the eye muscles can't improve your sight: the vital muscles are out of our control, says

Fed up with being called four-eyes, despite those costly Calvin Klein specs? Tired of searching for your contacts on the toilet floor or (if you're female) blinking painfully as mascara seeps behind it? Worried about needing pebble lenses as middle age advances?

Glasses may have become a fashion accessory but most people who wear them (some 57 per cent of the population) would probably rather not. Contact lenses (worn by 6 per cent) can be tiresome. Now a "workout" for the eyes has been developed which, according to the PR blurb, can improve eyesight up to 30 per cent in 21 days. Called (a tad unoriginally) eyerobics, it involves learning to relax the muscles around the eyes, improving circulation and altering the eye's shape. Which may sound tempting, but can it be true?

Eyerobics may sound trendy but it is based on an older movement, Natural Vision Improvement, developed in the Twenties by a New York ophthalmologist, William E Bates. He argued that wearing glasses was rather like being a heroin addict: you needed stronger and stronger prescriptions to achieve the desired effect.Dr Bates also claimed that the prime cause of problem vision, whether long- or short-sightedness, was strain on the external muscles of the eye, leading to a distortion in shape or structure. By relaxing these muscles we can improve their circulation and prevent, or reverse, deterioration.

The exercises recommended by Dr Bates, and now being promoted on video (Eyerobics, pounds 10.99, on sale from 30 June) include sunning - shining a bright light on closed eyes; palming - covering the eyes with cupped palms; and swinging - standing in the middle of the room and turning back and forth at a 90-degree angle to re-educate the eye muscles and increase co ordination.

Dr Bates also recommended a spectacle-free period each day, to learn to see without the help of glasses or contact lenses.

His message has been taken up by a Canadian ophthalmologist and "behavioural vision therapist", Dr Robert-Michael Kaplan, who claims that eyerobics works as a preventive and as a curative measure, with weak sight being improved by between 25 and 75 per cent within six weeks.

If only it were that simple. The sad truth is that while these exercises may be beneficial in relaxing the eyes, there is no major scientific evidence that they can correct vision defects. One of the most common of these is myopia or short-sightedness, which normally begins in the early teens and is caused by the eye growing too long from front to back so that images at a distance are focused in front of, instead of on, the retina. Likewise with long-sightedness, which often occurs in small children, the eye is too short, although this normally corrects itself over time.

These are fundamental structural defects that most ophthalmologists say are unlikely to be radically altered by muscle exercises. The three muscles that control the eye are not under voluntary control: unlike the pectorals, for instance, there is no evidence that they can be strengthened; or that they can alter eye shape. Long-sightedness in middle age (presbyopia) is caused by the lens itself becoming weaker and can only be corrected by reading glasses.

Exercises may help reduce eye strain however, and some are used for specific eye disorders: difficulty focussing both eyes at once, for example. But for most of us, unfortunately, the only solution to short or long sight is a pair of spectacles (modern techniques mean even powerful lenses don't have to be that thick) or contact lenses (just go easy on the mascara).

Anyone worried about their vision should never put off going for a check- up, and should ensure they are also tested for glaucoma, an underdiagnosed condition in which raised pressure of the eye causes damage to the optic nerve. Left untreated, this can lead to blindnessn

News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
News
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
As Loki in The Avengers (2012)
filmRead Tom Hiddleston's email to Joss Whedon on prospect of playing Loki
Voices
voices In defence of the charcoal-furred feline, by Felicity Morse
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Experienced Creche Assistant - Lambeth - September 2014

    £64 - £69 per day + Competitive London rates of pay : Randstad Education Group...

    All Primary NQT's

    £100 - £120 per day + per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Description Calling a...

    DT Teacher - Food Technology

    £100 - £145 per day + Pension and travel: Randstad Education Maidstone: SUPPLY...

    Supply Teachers Needed in Thetford

    £21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Supply teachers neede...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star