What is the 20-20-20 Rule?

Have you ever been working on the computer, or looking at your phone for an extended period and feel that after a while your eyes are aching?  Do you ever have headaches resulting from staring at a computer screen all day?  Today we will discuss the 20-20-20 rule and how making it a part of you daily routine could be of great benefit.

The eyes are controlled by muscles, just like the major body joints.  In fact, there are six muscles that control the eye: the superior rectus, inferior rectus, lateral rectus, medial rectus, superior oblique, and inferior oblique. The unique thing about these muscles is that, if we are awake, they are constantly in use. With overuse, all muscles can become fatigued and sore.  However, we very rarely think of the eyes in this way.  In previous posts, we have discussed the importance of stretching frequently throughout the day to provide relief from static postures. Looking directly at a screen for extended periods of time is like sustaining static posture with your eyes. Recently, we spent 14 weeks discussing various routines aimed at preventing overuse injury and improving mobility for every major joint in the body. But what about the eyes? If the eyes are controlled by muscles, why is there very little discussion about preventative measures when it comes to our vision?

Presenting the 20-20-20 Rule

The 20-20-20 rule is a very simple concept that should be performed in regular intervals throughout the workday in order to provide much needing relief to eye musculature.  The rule is: for every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Pretty easy, right?  If you are like me, when I “get into a rhythm” while writing or performing other high-focus tasks, it is easy to become lost in time.  I would recommend setting a timer every 20 minutes while performing intense computing tasks to ensure a change in eye focus.  Additionally, this is a great time to stand up if you are seated at a desk for a change from seated posture.  I would also recommend performing a few other “microstretches” every 20 minutes as well.  Every 20 minutes focus on a different stretch, such as performing a forearm stretch, for 10 seconds on each side.  This will ensure that consistent relief is provided to other muscles that are overused from performing associated activities, such as keying.

If I can be of any assistance to you or if you have any questions, please connect with me by your favorite platform below.  I would love to start a conversation!



Kevin is the Executive Director of HealthWorks Kinesiology and is a Certified Industrial Ergonomic Evaluator (CIEE), Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and a Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT).  Kevin holds a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and Health Promotion from Louisiana Tech University.

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