How important is exercise for healthy eyes?

When we think about exercise, we think about good health, fitness, weight loss, a healthy heart and lungs and a toned body.  Some of us may love the thought of getting out walking, jogging, cycling or hitting the gym.  For others, the thought may not be such an exciting prospect, particularly as we grow older.  Recent studies have shown that there is another reason why leading a more active lifestyle will be of benefit to you – your eyes!


How does exercise help your eyes?

Regular cardio exercise is known to reduce high blood pressure, lower cholesterol and reduce your chances of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes, all of which can adversely affect your eyesight.  However, it can also improve the health of the blood vessels in your eye, the flow of blood to the optic nerve and lower pressure in your eyes, thereby reducing the risk of you developing some serious eye diseases, such as glaucoma, cataracts, wet age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

  • Glaucoma. One of the major factors in the development of glaucoma is high pressure in the eye, which can be associated with high blood pressure.  This pressure can damage the optic nerve potentially leading to vision loss.  Doctors treat glaucoma by lowering the pressure in the eye.  Regular exercise can help keep your blood pressure at a healthy level and has been shown to reduce your risk of glaucoma by 25%.
  • Cataracts. As you age the proteins in the lens of your eye deteriorate causing the lens to become cloudy.  Exercise is known to potentially prevent or slow the clouding of the lens that leads to cataracts.  Studies have shown that those people who exercise are 10% less likely to develop cataracts than those who lead a less active lifestyle.
  • Wet age-related macular degeneration. Wet AMD causes the blood vessels to grow beneath the retina and leak blood and fluid into the eye and can cause significant vision loss.  Regular exercise can reduce your risk of developing wet AMD by up to 70%.
  • Diabetic Retinopathy. The high blood sugars from diabetes can damage the tiny blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye, which over time can affect vision.  An active, healthy lifestyle reduces the chances of you developing type 2 diabetes, as well as improving blood pressure and the health of blood vessels in your eye.

How much exercise do I need to get?

It doesn’t matter which form of exercise you prefer, as long as it gets your heart rate up and your blood pumping!  And it doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time.  A thirty minute brisk walk 3 to 5 times a week is all it will take.  You may prefer some other form of exercise, such as jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing or a good gym workout.  There are plenty of on-line exercise classes that you can take in the comfort of your own home.


No matter what form of exercise you choose, maintaining consistent physical activity, combined with a healthy diet, will help to strengthen the health of your eyes and your vision, and help strengthen your heart as well!

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