Regular physical activity seems to have countless benefits. From reduced risk of heart disease, to stronger bones and muscles, the perks of exercising span far and wide. But there’s another reason to make routine workouts a priority: doing so could also boost your eye health. Here’s a closer look at how regular exercise may preserve your vision.

How Does Staying Active Keep Your Eyes Healthy?

According to a study published by Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science in May 2020, exercise promotes the eye’s resilience and protects against damage. While past research has confirmed links between exercise and eye health, the connection has previously only been determined through self-reported data. “The new study is exciting because it supports previous findings with laboratory evidence,” ophthalmologist J. Kevin McKinney, MD, MPH tells the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

The study’s conclusion indicates that exercise prevents blood vessel overgrowth, which is the core issue responsible for serious eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy. As leading causes of blindness, these conditions are serious and have no cure, but can be controlled through treatments and prevention.

While experts are still working to understand exactly how exercise promotes eye health, physical activity does seem to lower pressure in the eye and improve blood flow to areas that are critical for vision, such as the retina and optic nerve. This is important for preventing conditions such as AMD, which occurs when abnormal blood vessels develop behind the macula: the area at the center of the retina which processes sharp details in your front line of vision. Diabetic retinopathy, another leading cause of blindness, occurs when the blood vessels in the retina are damaged due to uncontrolled blood sugar.

What are the Best Exercises for Eye Health?

Fortunately, you don’t have to be an advanced athlete to reap the benefits of physical activity. Study results show that moderation is key, as more intensive, forced exercise doesn’t necessarily yield better outcomes. Instead, mice that exercised naturally experienced a 45% reduction in blood vessel overgrowth, compared to those who did not exercise.

With that in mind, cardiovascular activity may be most likely to support eye health. Another 2020 study analyzing data from more than 6,000 adult participants reveals that interventions aimed to boost heart health also improved eye health. The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, or 30 minutes, five days a week. Exercise doesn’t have to be complicated to deliver benefits, either; walking is a great place to start as it requires no special skills or equipment. But the best type of exercise is the kind you’ll enjoy and be most likely to continue. From group dance classes to cycling, the possibilities are near-endless.

While fitness is important to strong vision, it’s only one component of comprehensive eye care. Routine exams can help detect vision problems early on, when they’re most likely to respond to treatment. If you’re due for an exam, schedule an appointment with our office by calling (404) 351-2220 or requesting one online today.