Exercise can prevent vision loss

Exercise for your eyes.

New research has found that exercise can slow or prevent vision loss.

The study, from the University of Virginia School of Medicine in the US, found that regular exercise can prevent the development of macular degeneration. In addition, it can help other causes of vision impairment such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

These conditions are related to a harmful overgrowth of blood vessels in the eye.

Macular degeneration is leading cause of vision loss in Australia, accounting for 50 per cent of blindness.

The study

The study compared mice that exercised on a wheel to mice that did no exercise.

The researchers found that exercise reduced eye blood vessel overgrowth in the mice by 45 per cent.

In a second phase of the study, researchers were able to repeat the findings, with a reduction of 32 per cent.

The researchers believe this is the first time experimental evidence has shown specifically that exercise can reduce the severity of macular degeneration.

“There has long been a question about whether maintaining a healthy lifestyle can delay or prevent the development of macular degeneration,” said Dr. Bradley Gelfand, one of the study’s authors.

“The way that question has historically been answered has been by taking surveys of people, asking them what they are eating and how much exercise they are performing. That is basically the most sophisticated study that has been done. The problem with that is that people are notoriously bad self-reporters … and that can lead to conclusions that may or not be true. This [study] offers hard evidence from the lab for very first time.’

The Macular Disease Foundation Australia already recommends getting regular exercise to reduce the risk of vision loss. What this research shows is that exercise may directly reduce the risk.

Even better news is that the level of exercise required to benefit is quite low. What can happen in people with vision loss is that they often will decrease their exercise as their vision deteriorates.

Further research will now be undertaken to establish the exact mechanism by which exercise is preventing blood vessel overgrowth.


Makin, R.D. et al (2020.) IOVS. University of Virginia School of Medicine.

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