The Surprising Impact Exercise Has on Your Eye Sight

Beautiful Smiling Young man Portrait close up
There are some great brain and vision benefits to exercise, according to new research. (Image: ajr_images/iStock/GettyImages)

We already know exercise is incredible for so many different health reasons: It can prolong life, help prevent anxiety, stress and depression and even improve your sex life.

But that’s not all. According to new research, breaking a sweat also has positive effects on eye health and the size of your brain.

Published in the journal NeuroImage, researchers in an Australian-led study found evidence that aerobic exercise two to five times a week not only positively impacted memory function, but also helped to maintain brain health through the aging process.

“When you exercise, you produce a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which may help to prevent age-related decline by reducing the deterioration of the brain,” lead study author Joseph Firth, Ph.D., explained in a press release. “Aerobic exercise slows down the deterioration in brain size. In other words, exercise can be seen as a maintenance program for the brain.” Yet another reason to turn off the TV and take a hike, right?

The brain ages over the years, shrinking an average of five percent every decade after the age of 40. Studies with mice have always maintained that exercise increases the size of the hippocampus, the region of the brain critical for memory, but human studies have returned inconsistent results.

Woman exercising
When you exercise, you produce a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which may help to prevent age-related decline by reducing the deterioration of the brain. (Image: twenty20/@nikitavantorin)

In addition to the brain benefits, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles found that moderate to vigorous exercise can also reduce the risk of developing glaucoma — the eye disease that can lead to permanent loss of vision if not treated — by 73 percent.

“Our research suggests that it is not only the act of exercising that may be associated with decreased glaucoma risk,” explained Victoria L. Tseng, M.D., Ph.D., in a press release, “but that people who exercise with higher speed may even further decrease their glaucoma risk compared to people who exercise at lower speeds with less steps.”

OK, so now we all know that exercise is really, really good for our bodies, minds and overall health, but what if you just loathe working out? Research published earlier this year claims that falling in love with exercise is as simple as changing your mindset.

Also keep in mind that reaping most of the health benefits of exercise doesn’t require taking a HIIT or SoulCycle class every day. Both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend that adults ages 18 to 64 should do a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise spread over three to five days a week.

And on that note, just do it!

What Do YOU Think?

Are you surprised by the brain and vision benefits of exercise? Will this new research motivate you to exercise more? What is your primary motivator to break a sweat?

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