Managing Your Eye Health through Exercise, Diet, and Nutrition

Henry Greene, OD, FAAOLow Vision Resources

Background image of someone eating healthy food with title overlay: Managing Eye Health

It’s common knowledge that regular exercise improves your quality of life.  Exercise helps with weight management, stress reduction, mental clarity, disease prevention, and dozens of other aspects of life that contribute to your quality of life.  However, few people know that regular exercise also improves eye health and can help prevent eye disease.

Reduce Risk of Glaucoma by 25%

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), moderate exercise can lower intraocular pressure (IOP) and improve blood flow to the retina and optic nerve.  Not surprisingly, like most other health benefits related to exercise, IOP improvements are only maintained when exercise programs are sustained. Once you stop exercising, your IOP returns to previous levels. In fact, according to one study of more than 5,000 people published by EyeSmart News, an AAO publication, maintaining exercise programs is so pivotal to your health that it can reduce the risk of glaucoma by more than 25%.

How Much Exercise is Needed?

So, what is considered an acceptable exercise regimen?  For adults, The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity weekly plus muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days each week. Moderate activity means you’re working hard enough to raise your heart rate or break a sweat.

This isn’t as crazy as you may believe.  Some activities include:

  • Walking fast
  • Doing water aerobics
  • Riding a bike on level ground or with few hills
  • Playing doubles tennis
  • Pushing a lawnmower

Just Exercise?

Don’t forget that physical activity is only one part of leading a healthy lifestyle.  Proper diet and nutrition can also contribute to healthy eyes.   Antioxidants found in many healthy foods can reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.  Also, different vitamins contain specific benefits.  For example, vitamin A guards against blindness and protects the surface of the eye, while vitamin C can help prevent glaucoma. In addition, antioxidants help maintain healthy cells and tissues in the eye and other organs. A couple of good foods to include in your diet in order to improve your eye health:

  • Green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collards
  • Salmon, tuna, and other oily fish
  • Eggs, nuts, beans, and other non-meat protein sources
  • Oranges and other citrus fruits or juices

Before starting any exercise regimen, be sure to check with your health-care professional to make sure it is suitable for you.  Also, keep in mind that in order to maintain good health, you have to stick to your routine. A healthy diet, coupled with proper exercise, is great for your body, mind, and eyes!