June 19th, 2018

To Your Health: Exercise can put your life in better focus

By Gillian Slade on April 17, 2017.

Compared with generations ago there appear to be more and more of us wearing glasses or contact lenses. Some recent research has found a link between exercise and how well we can see.

If you spend hours reading a book, have your eyes focused on needlework that is held about 30 cm from your eyes, are addicted to doing jigsaw puzzles, or watch television all day, your eyes will have difficulty adjusting. It will take some time to focus on items further away in your field of vision.

It is always a good idea to rest your eyes periodically when intent on a particular task. Take regular breaks and allow your eyes to focus on the horizon.

That is not the sort of “exercise” talked about in this research though, although it is very important.

Researchers looked at the benefits of physical exercise, such as walking, in relation of reducing aged-related vision loss and in particular macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness for seniors.

The Emory Eye Centre in Atlanta studied mice that ran on a treadmill for two weeks. They were then exposed to bright lights to trigger the loss of retinal cells and mimic the effects of macular degeneration.

The mice that had exercised had almost twice as many photoreceptors than those that had not been on the treadmill. Their retina cells were also much more responsive to light.

Macular degeneration begins when the photoreceptors in the retina are blocked, the equivalent of a camera in the back of the eye no longer turning light signals into impulses sent to the nerves.

The lead on the research project said the treadmill exercise for the mice is the equivalent of a daily brisk walk for humans.

The exercising rodents had higher levels of BDNF, a growth factor protein, in their blood, brain and retinas. The benefits were cancelled when the BDNF was chemically blocked.

The researchers are now investigating the influence of exercise on other eye diseases such as glaucoma.

You really have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by taking a walk every day. We already know the health benefits of physical exercise on the whole body.

There is another benefit too — mental health.

Going for a brisk walk gives you another perspective on life, your community, and is an opportunity to interact with others who are also out for a walk. Add a dog to the equation and you have even more to talk about and distract you from anything you’re worried about.

It is an especially wonderful time of year to be outside for a walk. The birds are singing — many have a mating song that is particularly beautiful at this time of year. Trees and shrubs are coming to life once more after a long winter and swollen buds are bursting with fresh green foliage.

Here’s to simple, uncomplicated, exercise and all its benefits and here’s To Your Health.

To Your Health is a weekly column by Gillian Slade, health reporter for the News, bringing you news on health issues and research from around the world. You can reach her at gslade@medicinehatnews.com or 403-528-8635.

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