Can physical exercise boost your eye health?

28 January 2021

Author: Kate Green

exercise boosts eyesight

What risks come with a lack of exercise?


We all know the importance of exercising to keep our bodies healthy, but what about exercising when it comes to protecting the health of our eyes? Vision is arguably the most important of our five senses, yet it’s easy to take good vision for granted and forget to work on it in the same way we do for the rest of our bodies.


Keeping physically active and making sure you exercise at least three times a week has been proven to boost your eye health and lower your risk of developing sight-threatening eye conditions. Some of these diseases or illnesses include:

  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Cataracts
  • Wet age-related macular degeneration


How does exercising actually help?


Diabetic retinopathy:

People who keep active and eat a healthy diet are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes and are also less likely to have high blood pressure. Both of these are risk factors for serious eye conditions. Diabetes can lead to diabetic retinopathy, a condition in which high blood sugar levels damage the retina at back of the eye and, if left untreated, this can result in blindness.



Exercising is also known to reduce your blood pressure. High blood pressure is associated with glaucoma, where the pressure builds within the eye, damaging the optic nerve, and potentially leading to loss of vision. It can be treated, and although it is often genetic, you can also lower your risk by ensuring that your blood pressure is at a healthy level with regular exercise. Regular workouts can actually reduce your risk of glaucoma by 25%.



Researchers looking into the development of cataracts actually found that people who regularly walk and cycle have a 10% lower risk of developing them than people with more sedentary lifestyles. Cataracts typically form once you pass the age of 60. The proteins in your eye clump together and your natural lens becomes cloudy with age. Physical activity has been found to reduce oxidative stress in the eye “by inhibiting lipid degradation which results in cell damage”.  When you exercise, you are promoting antioxidant enzyme activity which limits inflammation and infections in the eye, potentially preventing or slowing the natural clouding process of the lens which leads to cataracts.


Wet age-related macular degeneration:

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can either be wet or dry. Dry AMD is more common, but it can lead to wet AMD where there is an abnormal growth of blood vessels threatening your sight. Ensuring that you exercise for half an hour or more at least three times a week can reduce your risk of developing wet AMD by 70%. One possible explanation to this theory is that exercise keeps your body “biologically young”, in turn reducing the impacts of AMD which are associated with ageing.


It’s clear to see that exercise benefits every part of our bodies, from boosting vitamin D and burning calories, to lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Alongside regular exercise, it’s also crucial that you get your eyes checked regularly by your optician. This allows any undetected conditions you may have to be picked up and treated early, and preserve your good vision further.

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