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An eyeball lifting weights.

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.

Research on 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

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.”

Weight and 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 isn’t 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.

Finding ways to exercise

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”.

Talk to your doctor

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

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Klein R, Klein BE, Knudtson MD, Meuer SM, Swift M, Gangnon RE. Fifteen-Year Cumulative Incidence of Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Ophthalmology. 2007;114(2):253-262. doi:10.1016/j.ophtha.2006.10.040.
  2. Mares, J. (2011). Healthy Lifestyles Related to Subsequent Prevalence of Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Archives of Ophthalmology, 129(4), p.470.
  3. Your Sight Matters. (2019). Body Weight is Linked to Eye Pressure and Vision Health - Your Sight Matters. [online] Available at:
  4. (2019). EduFacts Scientific Write-ups - Review: Lutein & Zeaxanthin Metabolism. [online] Available at:


  • Caroline
    9 months ago

    Hi! I am 73 and was diagnosed with Dry Macular Degeneration about two months ago. I have a long story so please forgive.
    At the first visit with my ophthalmologist I was told I have Dry MD in both eyes, cataracts, and possible Glaucoma.
    I had cataract surgery last Wednesday on my left eye and my eye started twitching, to the point of aggravating my vision.
    I had to go in for another exam and was told my optic nerve has neuritis and my eyes are not in sync with each other. Hmmm…..
    I went back today for my one week out visit and was told all looks good.
    I am a really positive person and I just need information to show me how to get around this little blip in the road.
    I am taking Areds and eating healthy. I have trouble walking so my vision is really important to me.
    Thank you for listening and for any info you might be able to pass on.

  • courtneygetty moderator
    9 months ago

    Hi @caroline! It sounds as though you’re juggling many eye conditions at once. I’m so glad to hear that you’re taking control of your eye health and doing some personal research. Please let me know if there’s anything specific I can help you find! If you have any questions you think the community might be able to answer, feel free to post it in our Q&A section here: I’m so glad you’ve found us and hope you keep in touch. 💗 Courtney, Team Member

  • Andrea Junge moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hello, @caroline, I am so happy you commented. You certainly have a lot of scary stuff going on all at once. That is hard for even the most positive person to stay positive. Believe me, I’ve had my moments, days, long periods of time where I feel so worried and even sorry for myself for having to deal with it all. I am here to tell you that you most certainly can continue to live a fulfilling life and be happy. There are many things you can do to help care for your eyes, your body, and your mind (they all work as a wonderful team) and try to preserve your vision. It sounds like you’re being proactive by seeing your doctor, getting the care you need, and taking your AREDS supplements and eating healthy. I know you have trouble walking, but is there any form of exercise you can do to get your heart rate up daily…getting your heart pumping helps so much of our bodies. What hobby do you have that makes your heart happy? Do that as much as you can. I can see that you have sunglasses on in your profile picture! That’s a great protector for our eyes as well. Remember, you are not alone, we are always here for you! Please continue to reach out if you have any questions. I am wishing you nothing but the best, Friend. One more thing I want to mention is that we have an absolutely fantastic facebook group with so much support and love and care. All of our same articles are posted there, but many of our members comment there and chat with each other about their fears, how they cope, suggestions for accomplishing difficult tasks, and how things are going for them. Maybe you’d enjoy a community like that? Here is the link if you are interested. I’d also like to include a few articles here from our site that may be helpful for you on coping with macular degeneration: and And here Wishing you well. -Andrea, Team Member

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