How exercise can Impact eye health

27 September 2022

Author: Ada Yang

Exercise impacting eye health

In this modern day, everybody knows how important it is to exercise regularly as there are plenty of benefits in the long run. It is recommended to exercise 2-3 times a week for around 20-30 minutes. You could either go for walks or invest in a sport you love doing in your spare time. You could do sports like swimming, dancing, or running and any other activities you enjoy. We will find out the extent to which exercise can have a positive effect on eye health and highlight the types of exercise that are best for eye health.

Why physical exercise is so good for eye health

Lowers intraocular pressure

There are many benefits to physical exercise especially when it comes to eye health. Over the last 10 years, there have been several studies which found connections between regular exercise and reducing risks for common eye conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts. Cardio exercise lowers the intraocular pressure which is pressure in your eyes and it helps to keep the retinal ganglion cells protected. Studies show that exercising regularly can improve blood pressure and heart function, but it also decreases the visual field loss rate by 10%. 


Retinal Blood flow

Physical exercise also helps with the blood flow to the retina because the tissue changes over time. During 15 minutes of exercise, the retinal blood flow significantly increased; on the other hand, the normalised blur values in choroid-retina increased up to 60 minutes after exercise. 11 volunteers took part in the cycle ergometer exercise to determine the retinal blood flow; as a result, it showed it was increased as people put perfusion pressure on physical exercise. As physical exercises increase the perfusion pressure up to 190%, this means the choroid blood flow is also increased up to 140% which provides more blood to the retina.


Physical exercise and eye disease



Doing aerobic exercise can lower your blood pressure as well as eye pressure. You should be exercising for 20-30 minutes to increase your heart rate. The type of exercises you should be doing include swimming, going for a walk or riding a bike. Studies show that when people exercise for 3 months, they had a reduction of 20% of their eye pressure. Implementing regular exercises can reduce the risk of glaucoma by 25% and it can prevent vision loss in the future.  It is recommended that to prevent glaucoma, you should exercise at least 3 times a week. 


Diabetic Retinopathy

People who lack physical exercise have higher risk factors for diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. People with diabetes are more vulnerable because it makes people prone to an eye disease called diabetic retinopathy, this can lead to vision loss. It is recommended that people with type 2 diabetes should do regular exercise to reduce their dependence on glucose-lowering oral medications and improve insulin sensitivity throughout the body. Physical exercise can improve cholesterol and blood pressure as it strengthens heart health through blood flow and reductions in inflammation.


Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is very common in people in their 50s and 60s and there are 2 types of which are dry AMD and wet AMD. If you have AMD and you do not get it treated then your vision may worsen in the future.  This can either happen over several years (dry AMD) or it could be a few weeks and months (wet AMD). Regular exercises can reduce AMD by up to 70%. AMD is where light-sensitive cells in the back of the eye stop working, this could lead to severe vision loss for people aged 60 and over. Make sure you exercise at least 2 to 3 times a week as you can reduce the risk of developing wet AMD by 70%.



Regular exercise reduces the risk of developing cataracts by up to 10% if you exercise as it can reduce oxidative stress in the eye. There are common signs to look out for with cataracts and they include difficulty seeing at night, cloudy spots or hazy vision and increased sensitivity to light. Researchers show the risks of developing cataracts can potentially reduce by 2% every hour when people either walk or cycle daily.


Tips to Exercise for Eye Health

How Much Should I Exercise?

It is recommended to do 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week to promote eye health as it is proven to reduce the risks of developing various eye conditions such as glaucoma, AMD and cataracts which lead to vision loss in the future. Researchers say you should aim to exercise three times a week for 20-30 minutes to have healthy eyes.

Best Type of Exercise for Eye Health

There are many ways to implement physical activity into your daily life including walking, biking, swimming and going to the gym. You can also play sports casually with friends or find an activity you can enjoy as this will increase your motivation for a long-term exercise routine. Doing these types of exercises can lower eye pressure in adults eyes with glaucoma.

Risk Factors to take into consideration

Swimming in Contact Lenses

When you are swimming you may feel like you need to wear contact lenses to see well but can be dangerous in several ways. Typically, any exposure to water isn’t advised for contact lenses because the lenses can absorb the water, trapping potential bacteria and viruses against your eyes. Swimming with your contact lenses may increase the risks of eye issues such as eye inflammation, eye infections, eye irritation or eye infections.

Protecting the Eyes from Physical Contact

Engaging in sports exercises such as basketball, hockey and paintball could potentially damage the eyes, especially with children because if they get into contact with the ball, the eye injury could lead to blindness. To prevent this from happening, the kids can wear safety goggles on top of their regular glasses to reduce the risks of developing an eye injury. Risky sports such as hockey and baseball, you will need to use face shields as they are built into helmets or they can be added with it.


If you have further questions you are unsure of, please contact us at 0800 988 6390. You can also book your free consultation with us here.

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