Exercise and Macular Degeneration

What does exercise and macular degeneration have to do with each other? We all know that cardiovascular exercise benefits the body’s overall health and increases the efficiency of the circulatory system - which helps with blood flow to the heart... and lungs and to other parts of the body... like the retina.

In macular degeneration there is a problem with getting oxygen rich blood to the macula and removing built up waste.

Exercise Study and AMD

So it is no surprise that researchers from the University of Wisconsin found those with an active lifestyle were 70% less likely to develop macular degeneration than those who did little or no exercise.



The Wisconsin study that began in 1988, tracked almost 4,000 men and women (between the ages of 43-86) over a 15 year period by conducting regular eye tests and recording levels of exercise.

After accounting for other risk factors such as age, sex, history of arthritis, systolic blood pressure, body mass index, smoking, and education, those with a baseline active lifestyle (walking three times or more a week), were 70% less likely to develop macular degeneration than those who did little exercise.

The study is published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

Why Exercise is Important if You have Macular Degeneration

If you do have macular degeneration you may have found yourself not being as active as you used to be. It does take more effort to exercise with macular degeneration as your sight diminishes. However, the benefits are worth it, such as:

√ Improved energy

√ Improved balance

√ Better sleep

√ May help stabilized insulin levels

√ Improved mood

√ May Help stabilize blood pressure

What Kind of Exercise is Best?

But just like reading or writing, the more you just do it, the more confidence you will build.

Always check with your physician before you start an exercise program.

That said, here are some ideas to get you started:

√ Walking - find a friend or neighbor to go with you

Loss of depth perception is common for those with macular degeneration.  The use of a white cane can help navigate uneven sidewalks, dips and curbs. 

"Use of the cane to locate curbs, drop-offs, holes in the sidewalk and stairs provides safety. For over thirty years, I have witnessed what a difference the use or the non-use of the cane makes out in "the real world." The cane is a source of empowerment and should be viewed as an extremely valuable tool," shares Orientation and Mobility specialist, Lynne Laney.  

√ Water Aerobics - low impact and good for your joints 

√ Swimming - builds endurance, muscle strength and cardio-vascular fitness.

√ Ellipital Machine - use it in a room where you can watch your favorite TV show or listen to books on tape. This Schwinn one has 8 levels of intensity with 7 workout programs. It's nice and quiet, so it's easy to listen to your music or watch a TV program. Not too heavy to move around in a room with the help of the rolling casters. It doesn't take up as much space as other exercise equipment. Assembly is required. This is a great exercise machine if you want to exercise at home or if your vision makes it uncomfortable to be walking/swimming.

Schwinn 470 Elliptical Machine

√ Weight lifting - join a local gym where a trainer can get you started

√ Treadmill - for those who find it difficult to get outside because of weather or no sidewalks a treadmill can offer a safe way to exercise. Perhaps you have a work out room in your building or nearby gym where you can take advantage of this equipment. 

I use mine several times a week. It's a great way to exercise when you can't get outside.

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