Did You Know Exercise Is Good for Your Eyes — and Your Vision?

Research shows your workout is good for your eyes, too

Did You Know Exercise Is Good for Your Eyes — and Your Vision?

You know that exercise is good for you — for toning up or slimming down, or for just generally staying healthy and feeling better. You may not know, however, that getting plenty of exercise also may help preserve your vision.

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Several studies over the last 10 years have found connections between regular exercise and reducing risks for several common eye ailments such as cataracts, wet age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma.

In other cases, a good diet and exercise help avoid health problems that aren’t primarily eye-related but that sometimes damage your eyes (type 2 diabetes, for one). If you don’t control your diabetes, it sometimes damages the retina’s blood vessels and leads to blindness.

Vision problems and eye disease also stem from high blood pressure and high cholesterol. A healthy diet and regular exercise are two of the most important steps you can take to lower both.

Study points to a growing problem

A 2016 study makes the case that each of us should do as much as we can to maintain eye health because vision impairment and blindness can seriously affect our quality of life.

Researchers expect that, as the population gets older, the number of people who are visually impaired or blind will double by 2050 — and the rates are already on the rise around the world. Regular screening for eye diseases can help combat this problem.

What can you do?

1. Visit your eye doctor regularly. Work with your eye doctor to schedule checkups every year or two and make sure you have the right prescription for your glasses.

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2. Make exercise a priority. This is especially important in light of research from the last 10 years that shows exercise is associated with decreased risks for certain eye conditions, as well as offering other surprising benefits.

What the research says about common eye diseases and exercise

Cataracts. Whether it’s a brisk walk around your block or a run through the park or on a track, a 2013 study found that both activities “may be associated with decreased risk of age-related cataract.” A 2016 study had similar findings, and added that a lack of physical activity may be associated with an increased risk of getting cataracts.

Wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD). A study of about 4,000 older adults over 15 years found that those who were active and exercised three or more times a week were less likely to develop exudative (wet) AMD.

Wet AMD develops when unwanted blood vessels grow under the center of the retina and leak blood and fluid into the eye.

Glaucoma. Doctors treat glaucoma by lowering high intraocular (eye) pressure. Research focused on young adults found that moderate intensity, low-impact exercise led to significant reductions in eye pressure.

The Glaucoma Research Foundation calls for regular, ongoing exercise, such as walking or jogging, to help reduce eye pressure.

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RELATED: These 7 Facts Can Help You Save Your Eyesight

The bottom line on exercise and your eyes 

Many studies have looked at the impact of exercise on everything from improving your mental health to reducing the risks of diseases, and even cancer.

It makes sense to work to stay active and get plenty of exercise for so many reasons, including the benefits associated with eye health and preventing eye disease.

RELATED: Understand Your Options for AMD

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Richard Gans, MD

Richard E Gans, M.D., FACS joined the Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute in 2004. He is an accomplished surgeon and a comprehensive ophthalmologist.
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