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.

exercise and macular degeneration

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

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Exercise Study and AMD

The Wisconsin Beaver Dam Eye 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 same study looked at the impact of exercise on the progression of dry macular degeneration to wet macular degeneration.

"Engaging in an active lifestyle or walking more, independent of confounders, reduced the risk of developing exudative (wet) AMD over 15 years by 70% and 30%, respectively" concludes the study Physical activity and the 15‐year cumulative incidence of age‐related macular degeneration: the Beaver Dam Eye Study

Br J Ophthalmol. 2006 Dec; 90(12): 1461–1463. doi: 10.1136/bjo.2006.103796

Why Exercise is Important if You have Macular Degeneration

The authors of the Beaver Dam study Eye Study correlated physical activity with "lower systolic blood pressure, lower white blood count and less obesity; factors previously found to be associated with incident AMD." 

They also recounted that physical activity "reduces systemic inflammation and endothelial dysfunction1; both hypothesised to have a role in the pathogenesis of AMD."

exercise and 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:

exercise and macular degeneration

√ Improved energy

√ Improved balance

√ Better sleep

√ May help stabilized insulin levels

√ Improved mood

√ May Help stabilize blood pressure

What Kind of Exercise is Best?

exercise and macular degeneration

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. 

exercise and macular degeneration

"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. They each have different levels of intensity and workout programs. Find one that is nice and quiet, so it's easy to listen to your music or watch a TV program. Some have rolling casters, making it easier to move and some are more compact so it doesn't take up as much space as other exercise equipment. Assembly is required.

An elliptical exercise machine is a great exercise machine if you want to exercise at home, especially in the winter, or if your vision makes it uncomfortable to be outside walking.

√ Weight lifting - join a local gym where a trainer can get you started.  You may find you enjoy the camaraderie of other gym members.

√ 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 a nearby gym where you can take advantage of this equipment. 

Use your exercise equipment several times a week. It's a great way to exercise when you can't get outside.  So whether you walk, go to the gym or use your home exercise equipment, one thing is for sure is that you will benefit in many ways when you get yourself moving regularly. 

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