A glaucoma diagnosis can be overwhelming and unexpected, but it should not prevent you from living a fulfilled and active life. That’s why finding the right treatment option to manage your glaucoma is crucial.
Navigating a new condition, especially one that potentially leads to blindness, can be concerning. However, selecting the right treatment to manage your glaucoma can help you continue many, if not all, of your normal activities. In fact, when it comes to exercise, certain activities may even potentially reduce elevated intraocular pressure (IOP), which is often associated with glaucoma. In this article, we’re sharing some “glaucoma-friendly” physical activities and a few others you may want to avoid.
Exercises to Enjoy: Aerobic Activity
If you’re an active person and love exercising, don’t worry – your glaucoma diagnosis does not necessarily mean you need to limit your favorite activities. In fact, continuing to enjoy these exercises may even be beneficial to your condition, as aerobic activity can actually help lower IOP. Activities that were found to lower eye pressure include walking, biking, swimming, and using stationary exercise machines (such as an elliptical). If you still need convincing on the benefits of exercise, aerobic activity has been proven to improve cardiovascular conditioning, lower blood pressure, decrease the risk of heart disease, help control blood sugar, improve lung function, and more.
What if you have glaucoma but you aren’t currently active? Well, there’s reason to get started! People who tend to live more sedentary lifestyles may experience a greater IOP-lowering impact when they incorporate aerobic exercise into their lives rather than those who are already active.
Proceed With Caution: Strength Training
While there are many activities that don’t impact glaucoma and eye pressure, there are a few that might. Strenuous activities including weight-lifting or strength training, may lead to elevated eye pressure and it is best if you speak with your eye doctor prior. When it comes to weight training and elevated eye pressure, the results have been mixed:
- One study saw an increase in IOP in participants who were engaging in bench pressing exercises.
- In contrast, another study demonstrated that chest and leg presses helped lower IOP amongst participants.
Since there is simply not enough research on the subject, people who are living with glaucoma should proceed with caution when it comes to strength training. Small weights may be okay, but if you begin to experience any visual symptoms or notice worsening of your vision, stop the exercise in question immediately and contact your doctor.
Activity to Avoid: Certain Yoga Positions
With any health condition, there may be certain exercises and activities you may need to stay away from in order to prevent your problem from worsening. With glaucoma, there are certain yoga positions that should be avoided. For example, the headstand pose may increase eye pressure, especially if practiced for extended periods of time.
The headstand isn’t the only potentially damaging yoga position when it comes to glaucoma – downward-facing dog, standing forward bend, plow, and legs-up-the-wall poses were all found to cause an increase in eye pressure immediately following the exercise. In the same study, after several minutes of rest, the elevated eye pressure in all participants was found to return to normal. To play it safe, inverted positions should be avoided altogether, if possible.
However, if you love yoga and want to know how to continue this relaxing activity, there are plenty of positions you can still do with a glaucoma diagnosis. Try the following to ensure you’re practicing this activity as safe as possible:
- Discuss your glaucoma with your instructor and explain that you are unable to practice positions that impact your IOP.
- If something doesn’t feel right, stop! There’s no need to push yourself if you notice a certain position is bothering your vision.
- If you’re still unsure or have any other questions, reach out to your doctor.
Prioritizing Your Fitness (While Living with Glaucoma) is Possible!
Although your glaucoma may impact many areas of your life, it shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your favorite athletic activities, no matter what they may be. After all, exercise can be a great way to relieve eye pressure, mitigate stress, and benefit your overall health! If you have any questions or are unsure about a specific activity, it’s always best to reach out to your doctor directly to learn more.
For more information on glaucoma, available treatment options, or to hear some firsthand experiences, visit our website. Also, don’t forget to follow Living with Glaucoma on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.