Exercise May Help the Eyes

May 5, 2014
Aging parents who exercise may be helping preserve their eyesight.

Aging parents who exercise may be helping to preserve their eyesight.

Everyone knows that a good amount of exercise is good for overall physical health among youths, adults, aging parents, and just about all groups of people; now a new study suggests that it may also be good for vision.

In February, the Journal of Neuroscience published an article with one of those typically wordy titles, “Aerobic Exercise Protects Retinal Function and Structure from Light-Induced Retinal Degeneration.” For this study, scientists at the Atlanta VA Center for Visual and Neurocognitive Rehabilitation at Emory University wanted to see whether a specific exercise routine could have any effect on eyesight in mice. The answer was “yes.”

Two groups

The mice were divided into two groups. One group ran on a treadmill one hour every day, five days a week, for two weeks. The other group engaged in just regular mouse activities. After two weeks, both groups were exposed to the kind of intense light that can have a negative effect on eyesight and can lead to degeneration of the retinas. The scientists found that there was much less vision degeneration in the mice that underwent the steady exercise routine.

The retinal issues that the scientists tested are comparable to those caused by macular degeneration, one of the most common vision complications that aging parents and other seniors face as they grow older.

It’s a start

Machelle Pardue, PhD, one of the scientists involved, said in a press release that, “this is the first report of a simple exercise having a direct effect on retinal health and vision.” He thinks this could be the first step in developing exercise therapies to help prevent blindness.

Clearly, there is much more that researchers need to learn: as one of the first studies looking at this issue, and as a study that involves animals rather than humans, this study is hardly definitive. On the other hand, many studies down through the years have demonstrated that proper exercise can impact aspects of health that would seem unrelated to the specific exercise.

It will be interesting to see what happens in future years; in the meantime, aging parents have one more reason to stay physically active and to engage in exercise routines (approved by their doctors) that can help them stay in proper physical shape.

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Writer, Craig Butler

Craig Butler has been writing on a wide range of topics for more than fifteen years. As the National Communications Director for the Cooley's Anemia Foundation, Craig regularly writes on a range of health and medical topics. Among the many projects he has written for the Foundation is the Cooley's Anemia Storybook, a collection of original short stories for children with the blood disorder Cooley's Anemia. His freelance work has ranged from reviewing moves and CDs to creating entertainment-related stories about baldness, to creating text for comic strips. Craig looks forward to having a dialogue with you about senior care and issues of concern.

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