Exercise ('91, '95, '09, 2016) & Glaucoma


Learn more about glaucoma.

The fact that exercise is very helpful in managing glaucoma is of special importance because heavy computer users (who tend to be sedentary) are at greater risk of developing the condition.


Many researchers have reported that in the short term exercise reduces intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients. This study investigated whether this was true for longer periods.

Researchers surveyed the self-reported exercise levels of 24 glaucoma patients over three years. Eleven of the patients had continued exercise habits; the remaining 23 did not. They found that the patients who maintained a program of regular exercise had much slower progression of their condition.

Researchers: S. Yokota, Y. Takihara, et al,
Published: The relationship between self-reported habitual exercise and visual field defect progression: a retrospective cohort study, BMC Opthalmology, August, 2016.


These researchers looked at data from the National Runners' Health Study in order to evaluate the relationship between vigorous physical activity, (ie, degree of cardiac fitness) in athletes and glaucoma risk.

The eye health of nearly 30,000 male runners, who did not have diabetes (a glaucoma risk factor), and who raced and ran regularly, was followed over a period of 7.7 years. The researchers were looking at the dose-response relationship, the pattern of physiological reaction, of their exercise to glaucoma risk.

In addition, the researchers took into account the runners' age, consumption of fish, meat, alcohol and fruit, and whether they smoked or had high blood pressure.

Over the 7.7 year followup period, 200 glaucoma cases were reported. The slowest men, who also were the men who ran the least, had the highest % of glaucoma cases, while the men who ran the most and were fastest had the lowest risk, or no cases of glaucoma at all.

It is particularly interesting that the researchers actually treated running in terms of dosage, with risk decreasing 37% per meter per second in better running speeds, using the slowest men in 10-km races as a baseline:

  • In those who ran 3.6 to 4.0 meters/second there was 29% risk reduction.
  • In those who ran 4.1-4.5 meters/second there was a 54% risk reduction.
  • In those who ran 4.6-5.0 meters/second there was a 51% risk reduction.
  • In 781 men who exceeded 5.0 meters/second, there were no glaucoma cases.

These relationship held true when adjusted for performance in long races versus shorter daily runs.

The results suggest that vigorous physical activity may very well reduce glacuoma risk.

Researcher: Paul T. Williams
Published: Relationship of incident glaucoma versus physical activity and fitness in male runners. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2009;41(8):1566-1572


In a small study researchers found that both people with normal intraocular pressure and people with elevated intraocular pressure experienced reductions when they exercised. And the greater the degree of exercise, the greater the reduction. The patients with elevated pressure experienced greater reductions than those with more normal levels.

  • Normal - walking: -2.4mmHg
  • Normal - jogging: -3.9mmHg
  • Normal - running: -4.0mmHg
  • Elevated - walking: -7.7mmHg
  • Elevated - jogging: -10.9mmHg
  • Elevated - running: -12.9mmHg

It was apparent that for everyone the exercise, whether mild or vigorous had a beneficial effect, especially for the glaucoma patients.

Researchers: I.A. Quereshi
Published: The Effects of Mild, Moderate and Severe Exercise in Glaucoma Patients, The Japanese Journal of Physiology, 1995


In another small study researchers found that sedantary glaucoma patients who walk briskly for 40 minutes, five days a week can reduce their intraocular pressure by about 4.6mm Hg. This is with regular aerobic exercise for three months. The result is about the same reduction that can be expected by using beta-blocker medications for glaucoma. When the patients returned to their previous routine without the aerobic exercise their intraocular pressures again increased.

Researchers: Passo, M.S. et. al.
Published: Exercise training reduces intraocular pressure among subjects suspected of having glaucoma, Investigative Ophthalmology, March, 1991.