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Christine Luff

Running Good for Your Eyes?

By February 18, 2009

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You're probably familiar with some of the health benefits of running, such as improved cardiovascular function and weight loss, but did you know that it could also help prevent vision loss?

A pair of studies from the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory tracked approximately 41,000 runners for more than seven years, and found that running reduced the risk of both cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Researchers found that men running 40 miles a week had a 35 percent lower risk of cataracts than men running 10 miles a week. The fastest 10K racers also had lower rates than slower runners. So, to keep your eyes in tip-top shape, it helps to run faster and longer.

Reasons to Get Started With Running

Source: "Prospective Study of Incident Age-Related Macular Degeneration in Relation to Vigorous Physical Activity" Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, 2009;50:101-106

February 19, 2009 at 6:54 pm
(1) Sterling Harris says:

I am a former marathon runner and physician. My best marathon time was 3:16 at age 43 to qualify for the 1996 Boston. I trained and ran the Atlanta Marathon again in 2007 with a girlfriend; we walked/ran and finished in 4:53. I think that one has to consider the wear and tear on knees and other joints when one decides to run 40 miles a week fast to prevent macular degeneration. I question these results, and would have to see more data. If it is indeed true that a much more rigorous routine decreases cataracts and macular degeneration by 35%, then I highly recommend doing an assortment of aerobic exercises.
Cataracts can be surgically removed. I want my body to be in condition to go on long hikes when I am in my mid 80s without knee and hip replacement.

February 23, 2009 at 7:04 pm
(2) Brian says:

Good point Harris.

40 miles a week is quite a lot of work. Even if there were no risk of detriment to the body, say by using an elliptical trainer or treadmill and bouncy shoes to absorb impact, the mere logistics of planning an average of almost 10k every day is a lot to ask of someone’s schedule, let alone their body.

I have been one to train a great deal and used many supplements (particularly adaptogens) to speed recovery, and have been able to maintain 10k or more a day pretty much indefinitely, but I can see a time when that much effort could become difficult or just impractical to sustain. That is, if you otherwise have a full time job and other activities in your life.

But certainly for those of us able to make the time and are probably doing it anyways, that’s good news! I certainly am not looking forward to any of the detriments that come with age, and will fight them all the way.

I guess it comes down to balance. After all, nobody wants to decline in quality of life because they injured themselves for the sake of improving it.

That being said, I just want to say I really enjoy the fact that Christine gathers all these pieces of information and keeps us runners interested and talking! Keep up the good work Christine!!!

February 23, 2009 at 8:19 pm
(3) running says:

You both make great points! Interestingly, my grandmother just had cataract surgery the other day and it was a very simple procedure, quick recovery (much faster than a knee replacement!)

Thanks for the feedback. I do like reporting on these types of studies — even if the recommendations might be somewhat unrealistic!

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