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Exercise May Help Protect Eyesight

Reading an engaging book may seem like the best exercise for your eyes, but a brisk walk may be even better: new research has found walking could reduce the risk of glaucoma—a leading cause of blindness. The findings were presented at the 121st Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and included data from participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)—a large study that has tracked the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the US since the 1960s. The researchers assessed physical activity by measuring exercise duration and intensity using readings from individual pedometers. They also followed the participants to identify cases of glaucoma. The data showed that more physical activity at faster speeds was correlated with greater glaucoma risk reduction, specifically:

  • Every ten-unit increase in walking speed decreased the risk of developing glaucoma by 6%.
  • Every ten-minute increase in moderate-to-vigorous activity per week decreased the risk of developing glaucoma by 25%.

These findings suggest that it’s not just the act of exercising that protects against glaucoma, but also the intensity of that exercise. While more research is needed to understand how physical activity affects eye physiology, past research suggests exercise may lower glaucoma risk by altering blood flow and pressure in the eyes. Regardless, the wealth of other known health benefits should give you all the reasons you need to get the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise, per week—the equivalent of taking about 7,000 steps every day. And if you’re not into walking, there are other low-cost exercises, like dancing, biking, and hiking, that can help you log your minutes.

Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology

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