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Will Eye Exercises Improve Vision?

August 15, 2011

Will Eye Exercises Improve Vision?

In 1891, a prominent New York physician believed he had found a cure for nearsightedness. Instead of prescribing eyeglasses, he advocated the use of eye exercises and taught patients how to do them. That man was Dr. William Horatio Bates and his flawed system is still being used today.

Bates was different from other quacks because he had respectable credentials. He graduated from Cornell University in 1881 and from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1885. Over time, however, he developed wild ideas about vision that he popularized in his book “The Cure of Imperfect Eyesight by Treatment without Glasses” published in 1920.

“The book attracted large numbers of charlatans, quacks, and gullible followers who then published scores of unscientific books and articles of their own on the subject of vision. Extolling the Bates System, these authors urged readers to ‘throw away’ their glasses. Some of these writers even established schools,” wrote Drs. Russell S. Worrall and Jacob Nevyas in “The Health Robbers.”

Although Bates acknowledged that eyeglasses made seeing and reading possible, he claimed they didn’t cure vision defects and may ruin a person’s eyes in the long run.


Doctors say vision problems are usually caused by the improper bending of light rays by the lens of the eye. The lens normally changes shape to bend light at an angle that will strike the retina and bring objects into focus.

Once the lens loses this ability, refractive errors occur. In nearsightedness, for instance, light rays that enter the eye fall short of the retina, causing the patient to see nearby objects only. In farsightedness, the opposite happens. Light rays go beyond the retina, putting far objects in focus.

However, Bates ignored these facts and pursued his own peculiar notions. He claimed that the lens never changes shape and that eye defects are caused by stress or a “wrong thought” that can tighten eye muscles. To relieve tension and improve vision, he invented a series of eye exercises that he claimed could cure nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, cataracts, and glaucoma.

He advised patients to cover their eyes with the palms of their hands, to look at different objects continually instead of staring at one thing, and to read under difficult conditions such as in dim light. He also told people to stare directly at the sun to benefit from its warmth.

Eye exercises, of course, have their proper place in medicine. In “The Well-Informed Patient’s Guide to Cataract and Other Eye Surgery”, Dr. Mark Speaker of the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary and Karyn Fieden said these might help those with strabismus or cross-eyes. Dr. Peter Gott writing in “Better Health & Diet” published by the World Almanac, said exercises may be useful if poor vision is caused by a weakness or imbalance of the eye muscles.

But in most cases, the problem is due to abnormalities of the eye itself. This is common in eye disorders like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Eye exercises are useless here as well as in glaucoma and cataracts since these conditions are not brought about by stress but by other factors.

If you value your eyes, forget eye exercises! Consult a doctor for any problems. To eliminate eye bags, dark circles, and puffy eyes, use Eyevive, a popular cream that helps eliminate the signs of aging. Visit for details.

Janet Martin is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and published author. Many of her insightful articles can be found at the premiere online news magazine