Doing these 2 exercises may help reduce your risk for blindness as you age

Cataracts, which causes blindness in roughly 13 million people globally, is most often consequenced by age-related macular degeneration. 

The gradual decline is inevitable but its adverse effects can be dramatically reduced by relevant dietary changes in concert with lifestyle adjustments. 

Six new prospective cohort studies, published in the International Journal of Ophthalmology of over 170,000 participants determined that regular physical exercise can significantly decrease one’s risk of developing cataracts later in life. 

A review of the collective findings revealed that cycling or walking for just one hour could potentially decrease our risks of developing cataracts by 2% a day.

Physical activity and risk of age-related cataracts

From the report:

“Although cataract extraction surgery is effective in recovery vision, the high therapeutic costs and increasing demands for therapy have conferred a considerable financial burden to healthcare organization and society in general. Therefore, identification of the factors associated with ARC pathogenesis and implementation of interventions to modify these factors will be urgently required to prevent ARC or delay its progression.”

More directly, participants who engaged in aerobic exercises, like running and cycling, reduced their risk of developing cataracts by an average of 10% over the course of the study period. 

Although most of the mechanisms are still unknown some of the results appeared to rely on oxidative stress levels and preemptive cellular damage. 

Moderate to vigorous physical activity prevents lipid degradation which subsequently protects our eyes from progressive deterioration. 

Moreover, exercise increases antioxidant enzyme activity, HDL (high-density lipoprotein) levels, (also referred to as ‘good cholesterol) and improves insulin resistance and our body’s lipid profiles. All of these in their own way help important biological systems carry more antioxidants from plasma to our eye lens to prevent oxidative damage. 

“Our findings have important public health implications. By including all available prospective cohort studies with a large sample size, we could assess the dose-response relationship between activity and ARC risk, “ the authors conclude. In summary, the present study suggests that a higher physical activity level was significantly associated with significant reductions in ARC risk in a dose-response manner. Our result continues to support current guidelines advocating the benefit of physical activity, as part of a healthy lifestyle, in preventing or delaying the onset of age-related diseases.”

The study was limited in some areas by reason for self-reporting. Also, degenerative optical disorders can progress in the absence of obvious symptoms. All physical activity was self-reported and examined via a questionnaire which means the outcomes documented could be improved or worsened depending on verifiable exercise durations. 

The research was conducted by a team from Xi’an Jiaotong University and the University of South Australia and was published in the International Journal of Ophthalmology.

CW Headley is a reporter for the Ladders and can be reached at