You already know that 30 minutes of physical exercise a day can pay benefits to your heart, your waistline and your energy level. But it can also do your eyes a world of good. It makes sense that your eyes would receive the same benefit that the rest of your body does when you exercise. Many eye diseases are linked to other health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol levels. Exercise can help keep these problems at bay or limit their impact if they do occur.

Two studies have shown that people who exercise regularly were less likely to develop serious eye disease. In one study, researchers followed more than 5,600 men and women to see if there was a link between moderate exercise and ocular perfusion pressure, an important factor in the development of glaucoma. People who engaged in moderate physical exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop glaucoma than people who were largely inactive.

"We cannot comment on the cause, but there is certainly an association between a sedentary lifestyle and factors which increase glaucoma risk," said Paul Foster, MD, the author of the study.

Young people exercising

In another study, researchers looked at the medical history of more than 3,800 people to see if there was a relationship between developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and being physically inactive. The scientists found that people who exercised three times a week were less likely to develop AMD than people who didn't exercise.

If you already have a disease, exercise can help you manage it better. For example, physical activity can help people with diabetes keep their disease under control. That reduces the risk of complications, including diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of vision loss among working age adults.

Exercise has also been shown to help people who have glaucoma. Moderate physical exercise, like going for a walk three times a week, can lower your intraocular pressure (IOP) and improve blood flow to the retina and optic nerve. However, to receive the benefits of exercise, you need to keep to the program. Once you stop exercising, your IOP will return to previous levels.

The good news about exercise is that you don't have to be a marathon runner to reap the benefits. Taking a brisk walk, climbing the stairs and dancing are all great ways to get a good work out that will help you and your eyes stay healthy.

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