Just a little exercise can do a lot of good. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that regular physical activity can reduce the risk of disease and help with everything from diabetes to heart disease. But it can also improve your eye health.
Approximately 12 million Americans ages 40 and older have some form of vision impairment. As we age, our eyes become weaker and our vision is affected. However, regular physical activity can help protect your eyes. These are two ways exercise can help protect your eyesight so you can make your next visit to the eye doctor enjoyable.
Exercise prevents eye diseases
As we age, our eyes become more susceptible to disease, which is why eye diseases are more prevalent among older people. Common causes of vision loss include eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma, all of which can have long-lasting or even permanent effects on your eyes.
Exercise has been shown to help prevent some of these conditions, meaning regular fitness also appears to strengthen your eyes and keep them healthy, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Even those currently suffering from eye disease have seen marked improvements and a lower risk of complications after adopting a regular exercise program.
Exercise improves eye comfort
We all know the discomfort of dry eyes, but it turns out that regular exercise can help improve it too.
A 2022 study in Experimental Eye Research shows that exercise can promote stronger tear film production. The tear film keeps the eye moist and protects your cornea; it can even help your eye heal faster from an injury. However, when tear production is not sufficient, it can be downright excruciating. This can lead to eye inflammation and corneal disease, in addition to blurred vision and dryness.
In the 2022 study, those who exercised at least five times a week experienced better tear production and quality compared to those who exercised only once a week or not at all. All.
How to exercise for eye health
Even if you don’t exercise much now, it’s not too late to start. You also don’t need a lot of exercise to reap the eye health benefits.
Adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week to meet Ministry of Health guidelines. To achieve this, consider activities like brisk walking, cycling, water aerobics, doubles tennis, or tasks like gardening or moving the lawn.
If you choose vigorous-intensity workouts, the guidelines only call for 75 minutes of exercise each week. Go for a run, swim a few laps, or play basketball to really get your heart rate up.
Here are other tips to help you exercise for eye health:
Create a calendar. Although it may seem overwhelming, a regular schedule can help. You can easily break this up into 30-minute workouts each day of the week while still giving yourself weekends off.
Find a partner. Having a workout partner can help motivate you on days when the gym isn’t so appealing. Playing sports or going for a long walk are social ways to exercise while enjoying the company of a good friend.
Protect your eyes. Always wear sunglasses outdoors to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. You should also use protective eyewear when performing potentially hazardous activities, such as playing sports or mowing the lawn.
Do not smoke. Smoking can do more than just cause lung cancer. It can also lead to serious eye damage or even blindness.
Check your family history. Ask your family members about any family history of eye disease. This way, you know what you’re looking for and can work with your doctor on preventative treatment.
Consult your doctor. Be sure to schedule an eye exam at age 40, even if you’ve never had vision problems, with exams every one to two years for adults 65 and older.
With regular physical activity, you are sure to see improvements in your body. In addition to better eye health, you can also benefit from better mental health and even better sleep. It may even help you live longer.
It’s well worth getting out and moving. Your body – including your eyes – will thank you.