Exercise is Good for Your Eyes

Working out could be beneficial for your…eyes! Yes, in addition to all the other benefits of exercise, it now turns out that glaucoma can be remediated through physical activity.

On Monday, Oct. 24, the journal Investigative Opthalmology & Visual Science published a study that shows a cause and effect between physical fitness and reduced risk for glaucoma. The journal states that higher levels of exercise appear to have a long-term beneficial impact on low ocular perfusion pressure (OPP), which happens to be a risk factor for glaucoma.

The study authors looked at nearly 6,000 men and women in the U.K. aged 48 – 90 to discover whether or not a relationship existed between OPP and activity. Participants self-assessed their levels of physical activity both at work and at leisure, and were categorized as inactive, moderately inactive, moderately active or active. Then, using the 2006-2010 health check as part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC)- Norfolk study, the researchers used 3 measurements to check intraocular pressure (IOP). Systolic and diastolic blood pressure (BP) were recorded as the mean of two measurements taken with a sphygmomanometer. The results showed that those participants who had exercised at the moderate level approximately 15 years previously were associated with a 25% reduced risk of low OPP.

Associations between physical activity and low (≤40 mm Hg) mean OPP (2/3 mean arterial pressure – IOP and low (≤50 mm Hg) diastolic OPP (diastolic BP – IOP) were tested using logistic regression, adjusting for body mass index (BMI), age, gender, social class, IOP and BP. The results showed that active people had a lower risk of mean OPP. It is of worth to note that the association between physical activity and perfusion pressure was independent of IP, but largely mediated through diastolic BP. This study is the first one known to look at the specific link between physical activity and OPP.

According to Paul J. Foster, MD, PhD, FRCS (Ed) of the University College London Institute of Opthalmology, and one of the study’s authors, “It appears that OPP is largely determined by cardiovascular fitness. We cannot comment on the cause, but there is certainly as association between a sedentary lifestyle and factors which increase glaucoma risk. Before now, the only modifiable risk factor for glaucoma was IOP, altered by medication, laser or surgery. We believe our study points toward a new way of reducing glaucoma risk, through maintaining an active lifestyle. This is a way that people can participate in altering their risk of glaucoma and many other serious health problems.”

Dr. Foster’s final comment should be emphasized – Exercise has a positive effect on eye health and many other serious health problems. Now that you’ve read this (using your eyes), get up and move. Your entire body will reap the benefits!

Alexandra Williams

Alexandra Williams, MA (counseling) is one-half of humorous expert fitness advice columnists, Fun and Fit, which she writes with her identical twin sister, Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA.

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