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Why People with MD Don't Just Exercise to "Get Skinny"

Somewhere in my early years of diagnosis with MD, I remember my retina specialist saying to me, “Get as skinny as you can.” Needless to say, I left his office feeling pretty offended. After some contemplation, I realized he certainly must not have been trying to offend me, but rather there was probably a medical reason behind his suggestion.

Exercise and macular degeneration

The topic of exercise is of growing interest in the macular degeneration community. An article, written by Leslie Degner, RN, BSN, and advocate for macular degeneration, lists a few recent studies that have been done on this issue.

  • One study, called The Beaver Dam Study, suggests that “Increased walking of [only] 12 blocks daily decreased the incidence of exudative AMD by 30% over 15 years.”1
  • Another study found that women who exercised more than others had much lower odds for developing early AMD.2

The benefits of exercise

According Degner, Dr. Stephen Pratt, Ophthalmologist and author of SuperHealth: 6 Simples, 6 Easy Weeks, 1 Longer, Healthier Life explains, “The benefits of exercise have been proven to go far beyond controlling your weight – from boosting your immune system to preventing and/or slowing the progression of diseases like cancer, degenerative eye disease, and dementia.”

2 ways exercise improves eye health

Through some of my own amateur research, I learned two things:

  1. First, increased weight causes increased pressure on our eyes. Increased eye pressure = no bueno for people with macular issues who are at increased risk for tears and detachments.3
  2. Second, metabolism and the hormones released during exercise, in combination with certain dietary fats, are necessary in order for nutrients (whether natural or supplemented) to be carried to the cells in your body to be processed correctly.4 This means that you can eat ‘eye healthy’ foods and take supplements made to help maintain eye health, if that’s what you choose to do, but these nutrients are not always fully processed without ‘carriers’ that are released in your body while exercising.

Exercise is so much more than just going to the gym

Exercise can actually be fun, really! Exercising doesn’t always mean obtaining an expensive gym membership and going to ‘pump iron’ (written in my best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice). While that certainly works for some people, there are so many options out there when deciding to take up exercise. Finding something you enjoy will help you stick with it and you can start off at a pace that works for you.

Value your health

Don’t wait to value your health until it’s too late. Set goals, stick with them, reward yourself when you’ve accomplished them, and set new goals. Take the dog on a walk, plant a garden, stop to smell the roses, jog to a special place where you can watch the sun rise and set. Chop down that dead brush behind the house that’s been bothering you. You’ll never regret getting out there and living your best life. Remember, you’ll be helping your body absorb and process those nutrients that are so vital to your eye health! Added bonus, you may learn something new or meet new people. You may even “get skinnier”.

Finding the best exercise for you

Quick Tip: It’s important to note that certain types of exercise may not be suggested for people with MD or for people who are at higher risk for retinal tears and detachments. Boxing may not be the best choice for people trying hard to keep retinas in place. Be sure to ask your healthcare professional what types of exercise may be best for you.

You are stronger than you realize,

Andrea Junge

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