A toned, limber body, greater energy and reduced stress are all terrific benefits of physical activity, and that’s why millions of people sign up for gym memberships, join fitness clubs or hire personal trainers each year. However, there’s another, lesser-known reason for you to lace up your sneakers for a workout: your vision. In addition to lowering blood pressure, managing weight, improving immunity and fighting depression, exercise also benefits eye health.
What’s the Connection?
The link between your vision and your physical activity is oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a term that has been heavily used in the healthcare industry in recent years, but few people really have an understanding of how it affects health and well-being. Oxidative stress describes an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species, or free radicals, and the body’s capacity to defend their harmful effects with antioxidants.
Oxidation refers to the process of removing electrons from atoms or molecules. Free radicals, which are the highly reactive and electronically unstable byproducts of this process, contribute to aging and age-related disease. Research has shown that oxidative stress is a critical factor in the development of ocular disease.
Studies reveal that exercise counteracts the effects of oxidative damage that leads to eye disease. In one particular study, regular treadmill exercise reversed the morphological changes in the retinas of naturally-aged mice. The results of this study are incredibly promising for those with age-related retinal diseases like glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.
Millions of Americans suffer from age-related vision loss. Fortunately, you have the power to reduce your risk of ocular disease and associated vision problems. While other lifestyle factors such as diet and smoking play a role in oxidative damage, having a consistent exercise routine can offer protective factors to your vision and eye health.
Other Factors Influencing Eye Health
Few people are aware that your eye health can be threatened by your overall physical health as well. Diabetes, for instance, is a condition in which the body has trouble producing or using insulin to regulate blood glucose levels. When blood sugar is too high for too long, damage can occur in various body parts, including your eyes. The small blood vessels in the eyes may swell or leak, or abnormal blood vessels may develop in a condition known as diabetic retinopathy. Even if you do not develop diabetic retinopathy, diabetes can affect your eyes. The shape of your lens may also change and cause your vision to become blurry due to poor blood sugar control.
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to prevent diabetes and any resulting ocular disease or damage. If you already have diabetes or age-related eye disease, regular physical activity — along with other lifestyle modifications — can help you minimize the effects of this condition on your vision and eye health.
Exercise should be an important part of your routine regardless of your age. The type of exercise you do is dependent on your current health and physical mobility. Talk to your doctor to determine what type of exercise program is best for you.
It’s safe to say that with all the wonderful benefits of exercise, such as reducing your risk of eye disease, there’s no reason for you to put off your next workout. Contact our office today to learn more about ways to preserve your vision throughout all the seasons of your life.