How Does Exercise Help Your Eyes? | Exercise, Cataracts & Macular Degeneration

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Mud Run water duct with Alexandra

Tear Ducts or Water Ducts: Alexandra reroutes through both

Exercise and eye health go hand-in-hand. Or would that be eyeball-in-eyeball?

By the time you read this post I will have undergone eye surgery to reroute my blocked tear ducts on both eyes. Just the name of the procedure – dacryocystorhinostomy – is kind of intimidating.

My whole family has a history of bad eyes and nearsightedness, so I am not surprised to need surgery, but I did start wondering if exercise could have any positive effects or at least slow the rate of degeneration for my crappy eyes. Luckily, I found research that suggests so.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD), Obesity and Macular Degeneration

It’s long been known that exercise protects against CVD. Cardiovascular disease shares many risk factors with macular degeneration (a major cause of blindness caused by degeneration of the central retina), and obesity (also associated with vision loss). One study of joggers found that the risk of age-related macular degeneration decreased by 10% for every one kilometer of jogging per day.

Lower body mass index (BMI), greater cardiorespiratory fitness, and greater physical activity contribute to lower risk of macular degeneration. Amazingly good news!

Fish eye view of greenery 2Fish eye view of greenery 1The view from Alexandra’s skank eyes.


It’s possible that HDL (the good cholesterol) is the common link between exercise and the clouding of the eye that signals a cataract. Vigorous exercise leads to high concentrations of HDL (high density lipoprotein), which in turn has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects. As inflammation and oxidation are part of the development of cataracts, it would stand to reason that exercise can slow the rate of progress for the cataracts. One interesting study found that people with low levels of physical activity were 7 times more likely to develop cataracts than those with high levels of activity.

Tabby cat exercising and stretching

We said “cataract” not “cat.” Who’s SHORTsighting that word?

Of course, I am going in for blocked tear ducts, not macular degeneration or cataracts, but this information cheers me up anyway. At the very least, I might be avoiding or delaying future surgeries!!

Bonus tip: The risk for macular degeneration goes up if you smoke (no brainer, right?), eat meat and don’t eat a lot of fruit. So score another point for my vegetarian, fruit smoothie lifestyle! I’ll take all I can get when it comes to dealing with my genetic HUGE flaw. Hey, you’ve seen our 5th grade pictures with the cat-woman glasses. We started wearing those in 1st grade. You know, before glasses were cool. Also before glasses could be made smaller than coke-bottle thickness for super nearsightedness.


We make a few cents if you buy from our “glasses” affiliate link to Warby Parker. You get cute glasses; we get a cup of chai!

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