You rip through a set of curls to tone up your arms, jump on an exercise bike to work out your legs and grunt your way through some sit-ups in chase of washboard abs.

But what about the muscle you use more than any other in your body? The one that you’re even using right now? If you’re like most people, you probably pay it no attention.

We’re talking about your eyes, and yes, exercise for your eyes is a real thing with real benefits. As you grow older, exercising your eyes can be as important as having regular eye exams.

Here’s a look (so to speak) at what you can do to exercise your eyes and how it can help.

Your Eye Muscles at Work

You know how your eyes hurt after a long reading session? That’s because the external muscles of your eyes are constantly moving to adjust the position and focus of the eye. In fact, just one hour of reading can force your eyes to make almost 10,000 coordinated movements, or nearly three per second. It’s why reading in bed serves as such an effective way of falling asleep.

Your eyes are the most active muscle in your entire body and are built with more than two million working parts. Your eyes even continue to work while you sleep. Remember, REM is an acronym for “rapid eye movement.”

How You Can Benefit From Eye Exercises

While eye exercises won’t cure conditions like near- or far-sightedness, glaucoma or astigmatism, there are still some ways for all of us to benefit.

Digital eye strain is a condition common among people who work at a computer all day, which can cause eye discomfort and fatigue along with headaches and blurred vision. In fact, 59 percent of adults in the U.S. report having symptoms of digital eye strain.

A little eye exercise can go a long way toward alleviating these symptoms.

How to Exercise Your Eyes

Here a few different exercises to whip your eyes into shape. These should all be performed from a seated position.

The focus change

  1. Hold your pointer finger a few inches from your eye and focus on it.
  2. Slowly move your finger away from your eye while maintaining your focus.
  3. While keeping your head still and your eye pointed at your finger, lose your focus on your finger and focus in on an object in the distance in line with your finger.
  4. Repeat three times.

The figure eight

  1. Focus on a spot on the floor about 10 feet in front of you.
  2. Trace your eyes in a figure eight motion around the spot.
  3. Continue for 30 seconds and then switch directions.

Near and far focus

  1. Hold your thumb approximately 10 inches in front of your face and focus on it for 15 seconds.
  2. Now find an object 10-20 feet away and focus on it for 15 seconds before returning your focus back to your thumb.
  3. Repeat five times.

The 20-20-20 Rule

Eye strain is a result of keeping your eyes fixated on a single object (like a computer screen) for an extended period of time. If you’re in a position where you might be vulnerable to eye strain, follow the 20-20-20 rule:

Every 20 minutes, spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away.

Preventive Care

As with many issues related to our health, preventive care is key to maintaining a healthy set of eyes. It’s recommended that everyone undergo an eye examination every 1-2 years, and that frequency should increase with age.

Just a little bit of exercise for our vision, coupled with the right kind of care, can produce some eye-opening benefits.
About the author

Christian Worstell is a freelance writer from Raleigh, North Carolina. He writes about health, travel, and finance, and is a frequent contributor to several blogs around the internet.