A new vision of fitness for your eyes

With spring arriving, it’s time to get outside and get in shape. But does your version of physical fitness also include your eyes? In our workout-obsessed culture, we place great importance on heart and lungs, legs and arms. But better fitness and nutrition, along with your annual exam, can also help your eyes.

Exercise can be especially helpful for preventative care to avoid health problems such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure. In one study of roughly 150 men and women, researchers found that vigorous exercise was connected to lower incidences of macular degeneration. Another study of more than 5,600 men and women, found that moderate exercise could reduce the chances of glaucoma.

“There is certainly an association between a sedentary lifestyle and factors which increase glaucoma risk," Paul Foster, MD, the author of the study, said in an interview with the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

For those already suffering from glaucoma, studies have shown that walking for 40 minutes a day can reduce pressure in the eyes.

Beyond getting a daily dose of cardio and working your muscles a few times a week, you can also do exercises directly for your eyes. These little workouts are best done in the morning, but you might try them anytime you need a break:

1. Blinking – blink your eyes 15 to 20 times in rapid succession to rejuvenate moisture.

2. Rotating – shift your eyes from side to side, or in a figure eight, to increase blood circulation.

3. Palming – warm your hands and then press them to your eyes for five seconds to stimulate tearing.

4. Change focus – hold a pencil at arm’s length, focus on it, then move it to within six inches of your eyes. Focus again, to work those eye muscles. 

5. Try 20-20-20 – every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds to prevent eye strain.

6. Rest – close your eyes for a few minutes to give your eyes, and yourself, a much-needed rest.

7. Moisten – soak your closed eyes with a washcloth soaked in warm water to release natural oils that stimulate tears. 

Your diet is just as important as exercise. We all know carrots are great for the eyes, but there are lots of other helpful fruits, vegetables, and proteins.

Vitamins A, C, and E and the mineral zinc have antioxidants than can stave off macular degeneration. Try broccoli, red peppers or spinach. Vegetables can be eaten raw, cooked, or even blended in smoothies.

Omega-3 fatty acids can be great for the eyes, so don’t forget wild salmon or other fatty fish. Flaxseed is also rich in omegas.

Carotenoids such as lutein are found in leafy vegetables, zucchini, and even eggs. These antioxidants can improve eyesight and protect against macular degeneration.

Spending more time outside means you’ll be reaching more often for your sunglasses, which are also one of the best deterrents against cataracts. Full UV protection is critical.

Quitting smoking is crucial for overall health—including eye health.

The Essential Exam

Eight in ten people (84%) rate vision as the most important sense and nearly everyone (97%) agrees that having healthy eyes is important, but only half of people get annual eye exams, according to VSP’s Vision Care Awareness survey of the general public.

To help increase that number and encourage better eye health, employees should know that an eye exam from a VSP network doctor—included in their vision insurance—can serve as a key defense against a range of diseases. 61% of people in the U.S. worry about diabetes, but only 4% know an eye doctor can detect early signs of diabetes and other diseases beyond the eye. Thanks to VSP insurance, wellness care for employees’ eyes is easy and affordable.

A VSP plan can also help employees keep their families’ eyes healthy and start kids early on the lifetime habit of getting an annual eye exam. Eight in ten parents (83%) agree that a regular eye exam helps kids do their best in school, but four in ten (41%) wait until their child complains about their vision to schedule an eye exam. This is concerning because many kids don’t know what seeing clearly looks like. Making the annual exam routine can help avoid vision-related problems.

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