There are many benefits to exercise and how it can reduce the impact of the aging process. We have previously talked about how even a moderate amount of gentle exercise, such as walking, dancing, and strength training, can improve health and reduce mortality.
New research suggests that even moderate levels of physical activity can reduce glaucoma, one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States, and which is most prevalent among the elderly.
The data presented by UCLA researchers at the 121st Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology showed that the most physically active people involved in a recent study have a 73 percent reduced risk of developing glaucoma compared to the least active.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye condition in which the optic nerve, which connects your eye to your brain, becomes damaged. This can result in a loss of vision if not detected and treated early on. The condition usually occurs when the fluid in the eye cannot drain properly, which increases the pressure inside the eye and on the optic nerve, damaging it over time.
Glaucoma is a fairly common condition, though most people will not even realize they have it, because it doesn’t always cause symptoms in its early stages. It can affect people of all ages, though the condition is most common in adults in their 70s and above. Treatment can slow the progression of glaucoma, but, currently, there is no cure.
Another reason to exercise
Traditionally, it was thought that lifestyle choices did not play a role in glaucoma, but some recent studies suggest otherwise and show that lifestyle factors can influence eye pressure, a primary risk factor for developing this disease.
The research team investigated the relationship between exercise intensity and glaucoma using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a large-scale study that has been tracking the health and nutrition of adults in the United States since the 1960s.
Using this data, the researchers defined moderate to vigorous activity in relation to walking speed and the number of steps taken per minute measured using a pedometer. They concluded that taking 7000 steps a day every day of the week was the equivalent to 30 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous exercise five days a week.
They discovered that for every 10-minute increase in moderate to vigorous physical activity a week, the risk of glaucoma fell by 25 percent, according to the study. This means it seems plausible that the risk of developing this condition could be drastically reduced with a moderate level of activity.
While some studies do show that blood flow and pressure inside the eye can change due to exercise, and thus potentially affect glaucoma risk, more research is needed to understand the relationship between exercise and glaucoma.
This is yet another reason why anyone interested in health and longevity should engage in at least moderate physical activity to help maintain health. While the relationship between glaucoma and activity is not fully understood, the reasons to exercise regularly are compelling.