The eye is a delicate and complex organ, and its health can be affected by numerous factors within and outside of the body. Exercise is one such factor: it burns calories, helps build muscle, creates endorphins, improves endurance and stimulates organ function. Because of these overarching health benefits, it can also help keep your eyes healthy by managing wellness conditions that affect them and working to prevent or delay the onset of eye disease.
Effects of Exercise On the Eyes
When you exercise, your heart beats faster to pump blood throughout your body and deliver oxygen and nutrients to your muscles and cells. It also increases your rate of breathing and keeps your lungs strong. Furthermore, it dilates your veins and blood vessels in order to move blood where it needs to go, helping strengthen your veins and keeping your organs healthy at the same time. These biological rhythms and others that occur during exercise alleviate stress, produce positive and healing hormones and promote overall wellness throughout your body.
Every part of your body benefits from exercise, including your eyes. Exercise eases the pressure inside them, helps deliver nutrients to them so they can function properly and gets rid of toxins that could affect their health. Exercise won’t change how well you see, but it can help prevent your eyes from becoming weaker as you age and eye disease from developing over time.
Exercise and Eye Health
Physical conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweightness and diabetes are linked to the development of eye diseases. Exercise can help you keep your body healthy overall and manage these conditions, and it can help protect your eye health over time.
Cataracts result from the thickening of cells in your eyes, which can lead to obstructed, cloudy vision and potentially blindness. Many studies have suggested, however, that doing something as simple as taking a 30 minute walk every day can keep these cells healthy, get rid of damaged cells, and help prevent cataracts from forming or progressing.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the result of long-term eye damage that can lead to vision loss and blindness. The cells of the macula are incredibly sensitive and active, which is understandable considering we use them constantly to interpret the visual signals we receive every moment of the day. Eventually, though, they begin to wear down with use because they generate free radicals and toxins that can cause eye damage. Regular exercise is believed to help slow this process. It stimulates the production and transport of antioxidants to your eyes and every other part of your body. These antioxidants get rid of unwanted toxins and damaged cells, helping your organs stay healthy. Studies have shown, in fact, that people who are inactive are more likely to develop AMD than people who keep themselves healthy and in shape.
Glaucoma is a disease that develops as a result of high pressure in the inner eye causing damage to the optic nerve, one of the primary transmitters of visual information to the brain. In time, if not properly treated, glaucoma can result in permanent vision loss and blindness. However, exercise produces chemicals and hormones that relieve stress and ease excess pressure throughout the body, meaning it will do the same to the pressure within your eyes. It also increases blood flow and oxygen delivery so your optic nerve will have better access to healthy nutrients that keep it working properly. For patients already on medical treatment for glaucoma, exercise helps but does not replace prescribed therapies.
Diabetes is a chronic condition that comes with numerous health risks and needs. One of the long-term results of the body’s inability to produce insulin is damage to the retina. If diabetes is left untreated or is not managed properly, the eye may sustain enough damage to cause a retinal detachment or some other form of eye disease. While blood sugar testing and insulin treatments must still take place to properly manage this condition, regular exercise can also help manage the symptoms and ease the stress that leads to vision loss.
We’re Here to Help
At Piedmont Eye Center, we want to give you the most comprehensive treatment possible to help your eyes stay healthy, and staying healthy through exercise is a great way to future-proof your sight. If you have any questions on this topic or would like to make a plan to prevent eye disease, contact us today!