Five eye exercises performed by Chinese students every day
Maybe it’s the focus on academic excellence, maybe it’s the popularity of TV and video games – whatever the cause, China is a nearsighted nation, ranked second in the world for the incidence of myopia, or nearsightedness, in children. Current statistics show that myopia affects 28% of primary school students, 60-85% of middle school students and a whopping 90% of college kids.
Forty years ago, in an effort to curb occurrences of poor vision, a Beijing government official named Liu Shimin introduced a set of eight mandatory eye exercises to be performed every day by students in all Chinese public schools. Liu’s eight original movements have now been whittled down to five, but eye exercises, or yǎnbǎo jiàncāo (眼保健操), are still a daily part of the Chinese student’s school timetable. Led by classmates, and performed to soothing music emitted from the school’s PA system (the soundtrack hasn’t changed since 1973!), the current set of exercises takes about ten minutes to complete.
The jury is still out on whether the exercises, which have roots in traditional acupuncture, are effective or not. “There [is]no controlled study showing this exercise will prevent myopia,” says Dr. Jeanne Xi, ophthalmologist at Beijing United Family Hospital. “It’s assumed that massage around the eyes will enrich the blood supply and relax the muscles, [and]thus protect your vision.” Teacher Helen Gao, who taught briefly at a local school and whose own children do the same set of exercises at school every day, believes that eye exercise is helpful, and is even considering introducing it to her young students at the International Montessori School of Beijing. “It allows the brain to take a break and get ready for the next lesson. It’s a good idea for international schools [to adopt], and it’s easy for the little ones to do maybe once a day.” Gao insists that people feel much more comfortable after exercising their eyes.
Now, in an attempt to make reading this magazine easier and more enjoyable, here are the five exercises. Try them out and tell us what you think.
Place thumbs underneath bottom eye socket, and then massage eyelids from left to right with the knuckles of your forefingers. Then move forefingers under the eye and massage in same direction.
Nose bridge massage
Place thumb and forefinger on nose bridge and rotate fingertips.
Place fingertips on the bone underneath your eye, apply pressure, and rotate fingertips.
Back of neck massage
Place two fingertips on back of neck and move them back and forth.
All-over face massage
Place hands as if you were to wash your face, and
apply pressure as fingers wipe your face.
Thanks to Christina Chen, age 8, for modeling these moves.