In the experiment they used mice and divided them into two groups, exercise and a non-exercise control. Basically, they exercised the mice for 2 weeks, whilst the control did nothing. They then exposed half the groups to what they called ‘toxic light’ and the other half normal light levels. (It is pretty sad, but ‘toxic light’ is a super bright light that is a widely used mechanism of inducing retinal degeneration in animals). The results were interesting though:
- The bright light caused 75% loss of both retinal function and photoreceptor numbers in the non-exercise group. However, exercised mice exposed to bright light had 2 times greater retinal function and photoreceptor nuclei than inactive mice exposed to bright light.
- Exercised mice had 20% more BDNF protein levels than inactive mice.
- They concluded that the data suggests that aerobic exercise is neuro-protective for retinal degeneration and this effect is mediated by the BDNF factor.
The researchers said that it is impossible to definitely say whether the same effect will be present for humans, but they are working on finding out. Until they do, the researchers said that those who are worried about their vision, especially if there is a family history of retinal degeneration, might want to discuss an exercise program with their doctor.
I don’t know about you, but this is really interesting to me. This is just another reason why exercise is beneficial. I bet more and more research will come out showing the fantastic effects of exercise. If you are doing regular exercise, great. If you are not, it’s time to make a change and maybe you will experience some of the added benefits of regular exercise.
- Gretchen Reynolds, Exercising for Healthier Eyes, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com.
- E. Lawson et al. Aerobic exercise protects Retinal Function and structure from light induced Retinal Degeneration. The Journal of Neuroscience. http://www.jneurosci.org