Stuttgart – If you exercise diligently, you can achieve a lot – a more flexible body, a stronger back, a better memory. Why not better eyes? Various announcements on the Internet raise hopes of this kind. "I trained away my age-related long-sightedness in just two weeks," one provider quotes a customer as saying. "With the right eye training, you can see again without glasses," advertises another. From nearsightedness and farsightedness to night blindness and dry eyes, there’s hardly a vision problem that can’t at least be reduced. However, opinions differ widely as to whether such successes are possible.
"We see the eye as part of the whole," explains Belen Mercedes Mundemann, chairwoman of the Association for Healthy Vision, in which 135 vision trainers or. -therapists have joined forces. "We are convinced that there are close interactions between the eye and the whole person." This sets her holistic approach apart from orthodox ophthalmologists who have a "functional-medical" understanding of the eye, as she says: "It’s a completely different way of looking at things."
Through consistent training, defective vision can be alleviated. "If you exercise every day and have otherwise healthy eyes, you can improve your nearsightedness by two to three diopters after half a year," says Mundemann. In her courses, the alternative practitioner for psychotherapy focuses on age vision and stress-free vision. It works with relaxation and perception exercises. "Eye walks," which are designed to train perceptual skills, are also part of the process.
"It is as if they wanted to train their shoe size."
A pioneer to whom many vision trainers refer is the American ophthalmologist William Bates (1860-1931). For him, glasses were only "crutches" that did not eliminate the cause of vision problems. He assumed that tension in the eye muscles is the main cause of vision problems and developed various relaxation exercises for the eye and mind to remedy the disorders. They are still the core of many vision training programs today.
Ophthalmologists usually view the method skeptically. "That’s like trying to train their shoe size," says Georg Eckert of the Professional Association of Ophthalmologists, for example. "The human anatomy stands in the way."Nearsightedness (myopia) is usually due to the eyeball being too long. With farsightedness it is the other way round. And presbyopia occurs because the lens becomes less elastic as we age, making it harder for it to adapt to different distances. Wolfgang Wesemann, former director of the Hohere Fachschule fur Augenoptik in Cologne, also believes that training could not change these anatomical conditions. Wesemann has done a lot of research on vision training and nearsightedness and has evaluated scientific studies on the subject. They showed unanimously that myopia cannot be reduced by various training methods.
The brain learns to improve blurred images slightly
However, the results are not quite as clear-cut as they first appear: some participants who had undergone intensive vision training were actually able to see somewhat more clearly afterwards. However, the refractive power of their eyes, which can be measured objectively, had not changed. How can this be? "This effect is also seen in nearsighted people who leave off their glasses and put up with blurred vision. They see a little bit sharper after a while, even without glasses," Wesemann says. "This can be explained by the fact that the brain learns to improve blurred images."This can be compared with image processing in Photoshop. "It’s enormous what the brain can do," he emphasizes. But even if visual acuity improves somewhat as a result, it is still far from sufficient to cope well in normal life – and to drive a car, for example, or operate dangerous machinery.
That said, Bates’ exercises are actually useful for relaxing – which is beneficial for the body, mind and eye. It is undisputed that intensive work at a computer screen can cause problems: "The number of blinks is reduced by the fixed gaze that is developed during this work. This can lead to dehydration symptoms," Wesemann says.
If the eyes are overstrained, this can lead to headaches
Therefore, it is important to take a break now and then and let your eyes wander. He also recommends that people over the age of 50 wear computer glasses that are optimally adjusted to the workplace. Straining the eyes can cause eye pain, headaches and neck pain, among other things.
For some people, the relaxation exercises are so effective that they can actually see better – provided they suffer from "stress-induced pseudomyopia," as Wesemann explains. "These people are under so much internal pressure that myopia is reinforced."The ciliary muscles, to which the lenses are attached, tense up so that the eye remains adjusted to close up. "Vision training or relaxation exercises can reduce the stress-induced tone," explains the expert. "It then appears as if the myopia has diminished. In reality, however, only the accommodation tone has normalized."
Even Barmer GEK offers holistic online vision training, including Bates relaxation exercises. The offer is aimed at people who work a lot at the screen. "We get feedback from users that they feel better and more relaxed about their eyes since they started using the vision training," reports spokesperson Axel Wunsch. So even if you can’t "train away" your glasses right away, eye exercises can apparently be a useful contribution to relaxation and well-being – and that plays a big role in vision, too.
Service: Relaxation exercises for the eye
With this method, which is derived from the word "palm", you sit comfortably, bend forward and support yourself with your elbows on a table. One closes the eyes and puts both hands slightly arched over the eyeballs. Then take a deep breath and enjoy the darkness for a few minutes. You can also imagine a pleasant place. Afterwards one removes slowly the hands.
If you stare into the distance for a long time, you should look into the distance from time to time. You look out the window and head for a target at least 20 feet away. Then you let your eyes wander along the contours.
Working at a screen for long periods of time can dry out your eyes. Deliberate, rapid blinking causes moisture.
To do this, you stand with your legs slightly straddled and let your arms hang loosely. Then turn gently to one side in a range of about 90 degrees, then to the other. The eyes follow the movement without fixing on an object.
Yawning loudly, squinting your eyes and stretching – this moistens the eyes and relaxes the muscles. This exercise is also effective when yawning is done consciously.