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Exercise Have A Direct Effect On Retinal Health And Vision

Update Date: Feb 12, 2014 09:09 AM EST

Researchers have found that aerobic exercise help in preserving the structure and function of nerve cells in the retina after damage. Researchers further suggested that aerobic exercise directly affect the retinal health and vision. 

"This research may lead to tailored exercise regimens or combination therapies in treatments of retinal degenerative diseases," said senior author Machelle Pardue, PhD, from Atlanta VA Center for Visual and Neurocognitive Rehabilitation, in the press release. "Possibly in the near future, ophthalmologists could be prescribing exercise as a low-cost intervention to delay vision loss."

One of the leading causes of blindness in elderly is due to age-related macular degeneration. Scientists suggested that the cause was the death of light sensing nerve cells in the retina called photoreceptors. Prior the study, less was known about how exercises affected vision, said researchers. 

Researchers ran a mice on a treadmill for two weeks and subsequently exposed it to the bright light that causes retinal degeneration. It was found that treadmill training preserved the photoreceptors as well as retinal cell function on the mice. 

"One point to emphasize is that the exercise the animals engaged in is really comparable to a brisk walk," Pardue added in the press release. "One previous study that examined the effects of exercise on vision in humans had examined a select group of long distance runners. Our results suggest it's possible to attain these effects with more moderate exercise."

Researchers also showed that the effects of exercise came partly from a growth factor called BDNF which was thought to be related with the beneficial effects of exercise in other studies. Mice who were trained for exercise had higher levels of BDNF in the blood, brain and retina. 

The results are published in the Journal of Neuroscience

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