Is Exercise Good For Glaucoma?

Today, the mainstay treatment for glaucoma remains focused on lowering the intraocular pressure by Medical and Surgical Management. Various studies are going to study the effect of exercise in preventing the progression of glaucoma. There is some evidence to this that regular aerobic exercise can help the medical treatment.

Is Exercise Good For Glaucoma?

Aerobic exercise can help to lower the intraocular pressure on its own and also have a positive effect on decreasing the list factor for glaucoma’s like Diabetes mellitus and hypertension. Lowering the intraocular pressure helps to protect the Retinal ganglion cells. These aerobic exercises have to improve the systemic blood circulation, which ultimately enhances the optic disc head and retinal perfusion.

Aerobic exercises of moderate nature which increases approximately 20 to 25% of heart rate, for a minimum of 4 to 5 times a week, have a neuroprotective effect. Exercise should not be rigorous as it may precipitate or increase the intraocular tension.

Regular exercise help to prevent the progress of glaucoma and visual field loss, it should be brought to mind that, not all type of glaucoma, not all type of exercises have a beneficial effect. For example like angle closure glaucoma and some pigmentary glaucoma do not respond to exercises, fitness exercises in these patients may increase or precipitate the intraocular tension.

In some recent studies, researchers found that there is a correlation between walking speed and reduction of the risk for glaucoma. In these studies walking speed and steps taken during the walk is taken into consideration. It is noted that daily 30 to 45 minutes of moderate two-wheelers exercise in which include fast walking, jogging is approximately equal to 6000 to 7000 steps taken daily. Data analysis of these studies suggests that there is a reduction in the risk of glaucoma by about 6 to 8% with every 10% increase in speed of exercise. Routine moderate exercise decreases the transient intraocular pressure and increases the ocular perfusion. It has been suggested that exercise causes up regulation of neurotrophins and improvement of the mitochondrial function is the main neuroprotective effect of exercise.

A decrease in the intraocular pressure was found to be related directly to the increase in the duration of walking, jogging and running type of exercises. Although exercise decreases the intraocular tension, a certain type of activities may precipitate the attack of glaucoma such as headstand posture in Yoga for few minutes causes a tremendous increase in intraocular pressure.

Exercise Guideline for Glaucoma Patients

Do not perform exercises that put yours below your level of the heart. This type of exercises causes pulling of blood in the ocular vessels and may precipitate glaucoma.

Weightlifting exercises should be discouraged and if performed then breath holding should not be done.

Routine cardio exercises should be of 20 to 30 minute and should not exceed this. Exceeding cardio exercises put the cardiovascular system under stress to meet the requirement and this may cause is a strain to the eyes.

Certain eye exercises are recommended for reduction in the intraocular pressure. When a group study is conducted and intraocular pressure before and after performing the exercise is measured. The result of these studies indeed confirms the reduction of the intraocular pressure. There are three types of these exercises as-

Alternatively looking at very far and very near object. For example, at workplaces, one can just look at their tip of the nose and then look for a distant object like a building across the road etc.

  • Alternate between looking right and left.
  • Blinking- very fast and light blinking of the eyelids.
  • Combination of these exercises can be performed simultaneously.
  • Exercises that reduce the intraocular pressure by 1 mmHg reduce the risk of loss of vision by about 10%.


Vigorous exercises should be prohibited. Certain positions in the exercises and yoga should be discouraged, which include headstand position, exercises in which head is generally below the heart level.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 1, 2018

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