Dancing for Your Eye Health

Fitness class.Zumba, Jazzercise, ballroom dancing, swing dancing… what do these all have in common? These types of exercise will dance away your risk of developing eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration. Every time you dance, you are increasing your heart rate and improving blood flow and circulation to your entire body including your eyes. You are also burning calories which can help you lose weight, all while having fun!

Dance as exercise can help reduce the risk of cataracts. A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye that impairs vision. Moderate exercise has been proven to increase high density lipoproteins (the good type of cholesterol) which have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Vigorous exercise can decrease cataract risk by up to 35 percent (Source: Virtual Medical Center).

Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes increased ocular pressure in the eye because of excess fluid in the eye. Exercise has positive benefits for glaucoma patients as well.  According to the Glaucoma Foundation, exercises such as cycling, jogging, swimming, brisk walking and physical conditioning classes can decrease intraocular pressure. Exercising three times per week to elevate the heart and respiratory rate for 20 to 30 minutes is enough to significantly improve intraocular eye pressure, provided that you continue the exercise regime. After just three weeks of becoming sedentary again, all benefits of exercise will be undone (Source: Glaucoma Foundation).

Age-related macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of age-related blindness. This degenerative eye disease affects the central retina, which is responsible for sharp vision needed for reading, driving and precise tasks. A 2006 study at the University of Wisconsin found that patients who were regularly physically active decreased their likelihood for developing age-related macular degeneration by 70 percent! Being “physically active” was defined as doing an activity three times a week that produced a sweat (Source: Live Strong).

Dance is a wonderful cardiovascular choice because it is social, it is accompanied with music and it is often shared in the company of friends. While dance can seem like more play than workout, and you will feel refreshed in body and spirit. Dance is also an exercise that you can do at home, using your own music to set your preferred mood. If you have not tried dance as an exercise option, consider getting a DVD at your local library to learn a new dance, enroll in a class at a community center, or have a friend teach you some new moves!

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