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One Reason To Exercise: It’s Good For Your Eyes

Exercise, Good For Your Eyes, Cooper Eye Center

Physical activity is good for you. It helps keep your cardiovascular system working well, lowers your risk of obesity and a host of health conditions, and lessens your chances of developing depression. And now, research is showing that  exercise appears to reduce your risk of several diseases that can cause you to lose your sight.


Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world. When you have a cataract, the lens of your eye becomes cloudy and impairs your vision. Although there is surgery to correct cataracts, wouldn’t you prefer to never develop them?

A study compared the physical activity of two groups, one that had cataracts and one that didn’t. The researchers found that people who had little to no physical activity were seven times more likely to develop cataracts than those who exercised moderately.

The research is ongoing because scientists don’t yet understand exactly how exercise protects you from developing cataracts. One theory is that physical activity encourages your body to produce high density lipoproteins (HDL), sometimes called good cholesterol. HDLs have anti-inflammatory properties and inflammation is associated with the formation of cataracts.

Wet age-related macular degeneration

While cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide, in developed countries, the main cause of permanent vision loss is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Wet AMD occurs when you develop excess blood vessels under your retina. Those blood vessels leak fluid into your eye, impairing your vision.

A 15-year study in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, showed that people who exercise at least three times per week are less likely to develop wet AMD than those who exercised less, regardless of weight, blood pressure, smoking, or several other factors.

Another group of researchers examined all of the studies that have examined the association between physical activity and AMD. This study also found that there’s a connection between regular exercise and a lower chance of developing AMD.


More than three million Americans over the age of 40 have glaucoma, an eye disease that is not completely understood. It’s the second leading cause of sight loss in the US, and there is no cure. Glaucoma can slowly affect your vision without symptoms.

High intraocular pressure (IOP) is one known risk factor for glaucoma. If your IOP is high, your risk of glaucoma is also high.

One study involved almost 10,000 adults between the ages of 40 and 81 years old. The researchers recorded the participants’ physical activity and tracked their fitness using a treadmill test each week for nearly six years.

The participants who exercised for at least 150 minutes each week had a 50% lower risk of developing glaucoma compared those who were sedentary. Additionally, the people who were most physically fit were 40% less likely to develop glaucoma than those who were the least physically fit.

Other studies have had similar results, with one finding a 25% reduction in risk for every additional 10 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week.  

If you have any questions about your risk of developing an eye disease that could lead to sight loss, or if you’d like help in determining how much you should be exercising to lower your risk of eye disease, book an appointment online or by phone at Cooper Eye Center today.

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