Workout can slow or avoid the development of macular degeneration and might benefit other common causes of vision loss, such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, brand-new research study suggests.
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The new research study from the University of Virginia School of Medication found that exercise minimized the harmful overgrowth of blood vessels in the eyes of laboratory mice by up to 45%. This tangle of blood vessels is a key factor to macular degeneration and numerous other eye illness.
The research study represents the first experimental evidence revealing that exercise can lower the severity of macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss, the researchers report. 10 million Americans are estimated to have the condition.
“There has long been a question about whether maintaining a healthy lifestyle can delay or prevent the development of macular degeneration. The way that question has historically been answered has been by taking surveys of people, asking them what they are eating and how much exercise they are performing,” said researcher Bradley Gelfand, PhD, of UVA’s Center for Advanced Vision Science. “That is basically the most sophisticated study that has been done. The problem with that is that people are notoriously bad self-reporters … and that can lead to conclusions that may or not be true. This [study] offers hard evidence from the lab for very first time.”
The Advantages of Exercise
Enticingly, the research study found that the bar for receiving the advantages of exercise was fairly low– more exercise didn’t imply more benefit.”Mice are kind of like people in that they will do a spectrum of exercise. As long as they had a wheel and ran on it, there was a benefit,” Gelfand said. “The benefit that they obtained is saturated at low levels of exercise.”
An initial test comparing mice that willingly worked out versus those that did not discovered that workout lowered the blood vessel overgrowth by 45%. A 2nd test, to verify the findings, found a decrease of 32%.
The researchers aren’t certain exactly how workout is preventing the blood vessel overgrowth. There could be a range of elements at play, they say, including increased blood flow to the eyes.
Gelfand, of UVA’s Department of Ophthalmology and Department of Biomedical Engineering, kept in mind that the start of vision loss is frequently related to a decrease in workout. “It is relatively popular that as individuals’s eyes and vision weaken, their tendency to take part in exercise also goes down,” he said. “It can be a difficult thing to study in older individuals. … Just how much of that is one triggering the other?”
The researchers currently have sent grant proposals in hopes of acquiring financing to pursue their findings even more.
“The next step is to look at how and why this happens, and to see if we can develop a pill or method that will give you the benefits of exercise without having to exercise,” Gelfand said. “We’re talking about a fairly elderly population [of people with macular degeneration], many of whom may not be capable of conducting the type of exercise regimen that may be required to see some kind of benefit.” (He urged people to consult their doctors before beginning any aggressive exercise program.)
Gelfand, a self-described lazy-bones, divulged a secret inspiration for the research study: “One reason I wanted to do this study was sort of selfish. I was hoping to find some reason not to exercise,” he joked. “It turned out exercise really is good for you.”