Weight loss. Improved self-image. A longer life. When we talk about all of the reasons why we should be working out, vision doesn’t often make the list. But look again, because exercise is essential to the health of your eyes.

“During a workout, we often want to see results in the arms, legs, and abs, among other places,” explains Dr. Vivienne Velasco of iFocus Vision Center. “But like any other part of the body, our eyes will benefit greatly from exercise; you can literally see the results.”

Preserving your vision is especially important as you get older and face increased risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration, Glaucoma, and other sight-threatening conditions. Exercise, when combined with other healthy lifestyle choices, can keep you seeing clearly into old age.

Here’s how daily exercise benefits your vision:

Eye-Opening Benefits of Daily Exercise

Exercise Reduces the Risk of Cataracts and Diabetic Retinopathy

Cataracts appear as a cloudy, milky formation on the lens of the eye, gradually impairing your vision and preventing you from seeing objects clearly. Research shows that people who are physically active – walking, biking, etc. – have a decreased risk of developing cataracts. In even more disappointing news for couch potatoes, the same study found that high levels of inactivity will increase your risk of cataracts. Though Dr. Velasco says the success rate is very high for patients who undergo cataract removal surgery, going for a jog or hitting the gym can help you avoid vision problems down the road.

Diabetic Retinopathy is a condition associated with diabetes, in which increased blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the retina. Diabetics must constantly monitor and maintain their condition in order to prevent it affecting their vision.

Exercise Increases Blood Flow to the Optic Nerve and Retina

Exercise has long been associated with increased blood flow throughout the body, including the optic nerve and retina. When the blood flow to your eyes is compromised, it can lead to Retinal Artery Occlusion, also known as an “Eye Stroke.” The lack of oxygen can cause immediate loss of vision and possibly blindness if left untreated.

Getting Outdoors is Good for Your Eyes

As Dr. Velasco and other optometrists work to combat rising rates of Myopia (nearsightedness), especially in children, it’s imperative that all of us enjoy some time outdoors. Studies have shown that healthy exposure to sunlight can reduce your risk of Myopia.

“In the age of smartphones, it’s hard to get kids to put down their devices and go outside,” says Dr. Velasco. “But that’s exactly what needs to happen to prevent their eyes from becoming nearsighted or more nearsighted.”

Can I Exercise My Eyes?

You might have heard of “arm day” or “leg day” at the gym, but is there an “eye day” for people who want healthy vision?

Actually, yes. While “eye day” doesn’t mean looking from one direction to the next for 30 minutes, there are eye exercises that are most beneficial if you spend your workday staring at a computer screen.

Blinking

Blinking helps keep the surface of your eye clean and spreads the oil from your oil glands to the surface of the eye. Make sure that you blink hard enough where your upper and lower lids meet so that enough oil comes out of the glands. A good tear film with plenty of oil keeps the eye from drying out.

20-20-20 Rule

“20-20-20 involves taking a break from whatever you’re doing, look away from your screen for 20 seconds, every 20 minutes, and focus on something that’s 20 feet or more away,” Dr. Velasco says.  “This is also a great time to do blinking exercises.”

Re-focusing your eyes will reduce the effects of digital eyestrain, especially if you make it part of your daily work routine.

Need more healthy vision advice? Schedule your appointment at iFocus Vision Center online or call 702-473-5660.