Exercise (1990, 2016) & Macular Degeneration Prevention


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This long-term study conducted from a large population in Melbourne, Australia finds the same results as data from the Beaver Dam Study in the U.S. (below).

From 1990 to 1994 initial data was collected from almost 21,000 participants and graded according to the vigor of the exercise - e.g., walking, vigorous and non-vigorous exercise. Fifteen years later, from 2003 to 2007, retinal photographs were taken of the participants and were graded according to early, intermediate or advanced macular degeneration. The data was also adjusted according to the participants' age, gender, smoking habits, ethnic heritage, diet and alcohol use.

The researchers found incidence of early AMD in 21% of the subjects, intermediate in 13%, and advanced AMD in .6% of the participants.

There was no connection between overall physical activity and AMD onset. However they did find a difference when comparing frequent exercise (more than 3 times a week) and infrequent exercise (1-2 times a week). The female frequent exercisers had a 22% lower risk of intermediate AMD, but there was no similar association for men.

Exercise was associated with lower odds of intermediate and late AMD. After controlling for factors that could bias the results, there was evidence of improvement (related to gender). Frequent vigorous exercise was associated with a 22% decrease in the odds of intermediate AMD (95% CI 4% to 36%) in women, but no association was found for men. They concluded that further research will be helpful.

Researchers: M.B. McGuinness, et al,
Past physical activity and age-related macular degeneration: the Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study, British Journal of Ophthalogy, October, 2016.


The researchers felt that heart disease and macular degeneration (AMD) appeared to share common risk factors, but there had been little research to support the idea. Because it was known that physical activity improves the cardiovascular risk profile this study intended to investigate the relationship.

Over a period of 15 years, researchers evaluated the visual health of nearly 4,000 participants. The study began in 1988-1990 and the participants were evaluated every five years.

Incidence of early, intermediate and advanced forms of AMD were determined by use of color photos of the retina. Physical activity during the 15 year period was assessed by self-reporting in questionnaires.

The researchers adjusted the data for age, gender, arthritis history, blood pressure, BMI, smoking habits and education. They found that people with an active lifestyle, with regular activity at least three times a week were less likely to develop the advanced form of macular degeneration, wet AMD. They did not find that physical activity levels were associated with the less severe forms of the condition.

Researchers: M.D. Knudtson, et al,
Published: Physical activity and the 15-year cumulative incidence of age-related macular degeneration: the Beaver Dam Eye Study, British Journal of Ophthalomogy, December, 2006.