March 17, 2022

What Exercise Is Good for Glaucoma?

With glaucoma, pressure builds inside the eye, often caused by improper fluid draining. This condition can require careful treatment and lifestyle decisions to manage symptoms. If you have glaucoma, you may wonder which everyday activities are safe and which risk exacerbating your ailment. Exercise, for example, is an activity that can affect your prognosis, depending on the type, intensity, and length of your workouts. At Northeastern Eye Institute, we want you to live a full and healthy life as you manage your glaucoma diagnosis. Read on to learn more about what exercise is good for glaucoma.

Can I Exercise With Glaucoma?

If the pressure caused by glaucoma becomes too great, it can affect the optic nerve, which can permanently damage the eye. For this reason, it’s important to avoid any daily activities that can increase pressure in the eye. Certain exercise types can increase this pressure, and should therefore be avoided. However, other exercises safely strengthen your heart and blood flow, which will actually help reduce pressure. Before you begin any exercise program, it’s important to understand how it can affect your glaucoma diagnosis.

Is Walking Good for Glaucoma?

Photo via Flickr by shixart1985 Licensed CC BY 2.0

Aerobic exercise is a great option for staying healthy while managing your glaucoma. This type of exercise includes activities like walking, swimming, biking, or working out with stationary machines like treadmills. These exercise types can increase blood circulation, which benefits the heart and brain. Studies on the effects of aerobic exercise have shown that these activities can increase blood flow to the brain and eye, which can lower intraocular pressure. Some studies even show an association between increased time spent doing aerobic physical activity and slower rates of visual field loss in glaucoma patients.

While aerobic exercise can create some benefits, it’s important not to push yourself too hard when exercising with glaucoma, as this can make the condition worse rather than better. This is why walking is a good option. Besides improving your overall mental and physical health, regular walks can offer the benefits of aerobic exercise without the potential strain of activities like running. While walking, you can also easily go at your own pace, stopping or slowing down if you feel too out of breath. Walking can be a great way to begin a glaucoma exercise journey in a manageable way. 

Can You Lift Weights With Glaucoma?

Like other types of exercise, weight lifting can offer some benefits for glaucoma patients, but can also be harmful if done too strenuously. Low-level weight routines are often fine, and patients with mild glaucoma may even be able to complete weight training that is a bit more strenuous. In most cases, though, extremely high weight amounts or lengthy training intervals can cause too much strain, which can increase pressure on the eye. Regular breathing and exhaling while lifting is a great way to limit pressure build as you exercise.

What Exercise Is Good for Glaucoma?

Most exercise types can be beneficial for glaucoma as long as you carefully monitor your exertion and don’t push yourself too far beyond your limits. Aerobic exercises are a great option, but you may want to avoid any activities that seriously affect your ability to inhale and exhale oxygen. For example, long runs or extended swimming periods that require you to hold your breath can increase pressure and lead to eye damage.

Weight lifting is a great way to get some exercise, but you should also carefully monitor your progress to make sure that you aren’t taking on too much strain as you lift. Pilates, yoga, and other stretching-based activities are fine as well. However, you may have to work with your instructor to develop a personalized program that eliminates any positions that increase pressure in the eye.

Overall, exercise is good for glaucoma as long as you can minimize excessive strain or restricted breathing. When you begin a fitness program or a new workout activity, consider starting slowly to learn more about your limits. As you become more comfortable, you can gradually begin to push yourself for longer or more strenuous workouts. Finding the perfect balance between a challenging workout and unnecessary pressure is important. You can check out our blog for some great local fitness centers that will help you develop your ideal, glaucoma-safe exercise plan.

What Exercise Is Bad for Glaucoma?

If you have glaucoma, avoid any exercises that require you to be upside down, as this can seriously increase pressure on the eye. Activities like gymnastics or competitive cheerleading may not be the right fit for a glaucoma patient. Certain yoga poses, like the popular downward dog position, can also create this pressure. 

Exceptionally strenuous exercises may also not be good for glaucoma. Lifting weights over 200 pounds, for example, is not recommended. Any activity that causes you to hold your breath so long that your face turns red is usually not beneficial for glaucoma. You can, however, breathe hard as long as your breathing isn’t restricted. This judgment is often based on common sense and depends on your individual situation and comfort with the exercise you’re completing. 

If you aren’t sure if an exercise will have a negative effect, you can always speak to your eye doctor. You can also discuss your options with your fitness professional or instructor. They’ll likely be able to help you develop a safer exercise program. If you’re still unsure, you may want to stay on the safe side with less strenuous activities until you better understand the limits of your condition. 

At Northeastern Eye Institute, we want you to live a fulfilling everyday life with glaucoma. We also want you to improve your health and manage your symptoms. Exercise is a great way to do both, but you have to be careful about the exercise types you choose. If you have any questions about what you can and can’t do with glaucoma, you can contact our friendly eye experts at any time for questions or to schedule a consultation. We can’t wait to help you improve your health and wellbeing. 

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