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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!

Your event needs education, motivation, and fit-elation? Call us at (805) 403-4338 or email

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About Fun and Fit

Get practical exercise advice, your fitness questions answered, and cutting edge health edu-tainment that is accessible and doable from long time fitness experts, Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA. We have taught on land, sea, and airwaves for 3 decades on 4 continents. From writing to speaking, emceeing to hosting a radio show, reviewing products to teaching classes, we believe that little steps turn into big paths. Move a little more than the day before. FitFluential Ambassadors and award-winners both online and off.

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

  1. Kim August 8, 2013 at 7:56 am #

    First – I hope the eye surgery went smoothly!!!
    I didn’t know that exercise could help your eyes – good to know though!! My grandmother had macular degeneration (which I’ve heard can be hereditary) and was pretty much completely blind when she passed away – hopefully my lifestyle will help prevent it!!!
    Kim recently posted..Feeling Old and CreakyMy Profile

    • KymberlyFunFit August 8, 2013 at 8:45 am #

      Hi Kim: Alexandra’s surgery went well though she now has two black eyes. Isn’t that bizarre about how exercise affects vision? We were surprised as well at how clear the research was. May your eyesight stay even clearer!
      KymberlyFunFit recently posted..6 Practical Fitness Tips for Older AdultsMy Profile

  2. Jody - Fit at 55 August 9, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    Thank you for this & so hoping you are not using those eyes too much at the convention – your health is more important! :) This is great info!

    My mom was being treated for macular degenration at UCLA before she got cancer & then they had to stop… I hope all my exercising helps! :)
    Jody – Fit at 55 recently posted..Spirulina & Astaxanthin – Hawaii Love!My Profile

  3. Patricia Schwartz August 12, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    I didn’t know your exercise habits could help your eyes, that’s pretty cool! It’s a shame how much genetics plays a role in it though.

    I hope your surgery went well and granted you eagle eyes!

  4. Sheryl August 17, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    I hope the eye surgery went well. And I am a firm proponent of exercise being protective for a host of physical problems.
    Sheryl recently posted..It’s a Foxcroft Celebration!My Profile

  5. KymberlyFunFit August 17, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

    Wheee Wheee We are pro proponents like you! Thanks for reading.
    KymberlyFunFit recently posted..Replace Health Cares with Healthy Habits (from BlogHer)My Profile

  6. Lynn Jones August 18, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    It never ceases to amaze how much exercise can play a role in one’s health. This is pretty incredible though. Thank you for sharing this and I hope the surgery went well.

    Lynn Jones recently posted..Career Coaching 3-Part Series (Part 3): Bouncing Back From Major Life ChangesMy Profile

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