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There is some evidence suggesting that aerobic exercise can reduce eye pressure on its own, and can also have a positive impact on other glaucoma risk factors including diabetes and high blood pressure.
"Aerobic exercise is known to lower intraocular pressure (IOP), which we know protects retinal ganglion cells," says Harry A. Quigley, MD, professor and director of glaucoma services at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "And short-term studies show it may improve blood flow to the retina and optic nerve as well."
What's interesting to note is that in order to achieve a positive neuroprotective effect, you don't have to exercise rigorously. IOP can be lowered by exercise that raises the pulse just 20-25% -- that could be a brisk walk -- for 20 minutes, a minimum of four times a week.
Regular exercise may be a useful addition to the prevention of visual loss from glaucoma, but only your eye doctor can assess the effects of exercise on your eye pressure. Some rare forms of glaucoma (such as closed-angle) are not responsive to the effects of exercise, and other forms of glaucoma (for example, pigmentary glaucoma) may actually develop a temporary increase in IOP after vigorous exercise.
While exercise is beneficial in most cases but it cannot replace glaucoma medications or visits to your eye doctor.
Last reviewed on October 20, 2016