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What exercise is best for glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye condition characterized by damage to the optic nerve. It is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide. While there is no cure for glaucoma, it can be controlled through various treatment options. One non-medical way to help manage glaucoma is through exercise.

How does exercise help with glaucoma?

Research has shown that regular exercise can help lower eye pressure in people with glaucoma. Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is a major risk factor for optic nerve damage in glaucoma. Exercise helps improve blood circulation, allowing fluid to drain more effectively from the eye and lowering IOP.

In addition, exercise reduces stress and anxiety, which have been linked to progression of glaucoma damage. It also improves sleep quality, giving the eyes time to recover overnight. Overall, an active lifestyle supports eye health and can slow vision loss in glaucoma patients.

Best types of exercise for managing glaucoma

While all exercise is good, certain types are considered particularly beneficial for people with glaucoma:

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic activities like walking, jogging, swimming and cycling that raise your heart rate and breathing are excellent for glaucoma. They improve cardiovascular fitness which enhances blood flow to the eyes. Aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity.


Yoga positions like downward dog, child’s pose and happy baby pose increase blood flow to the head and neck area. Yoga also reduces stress through controlled breathing. Try to do yoga for 30-60 minutes 2-3 times per week.

Eye exercises

Exercises that involve moving the eyes up and down or side to side promote drainage in the trabecular meshwork, the eye’s drainage system. Try rolling your eyes clockwise and counter-clockwise. Also look up, down, left and right holding each position for a few seconds.

Strength training

Lifting weights 2-3 times a week for about 30 minutes increases muscle strength and endurance. Stronger muscles require the heart to work less during exercise, enhancing blood circulation.

How does exercise compare to other glaucoma treatments?

Exercise works as a complementary therapy along with standard medical treatment for glaucoma. Some studies comparing exercise with other glaucoma treatments found:

  • Similar IOP-lowering effect as prescription eye drops used in glaucoma.
  • More substantial IOP reduction than oral supplementation with anthocyanosides (bilberry extract).
  • Enhanced quality of life versus surgery like trabeculectomy to improve drainage.

While not as potent as medications or surgery, exercise has the advantages of being risk-free and improving overall health. It also helps delay or reduce the need for other interventions.

Best exercises for different types of glaucoma

Certain exercises may be preferable depending on the specific diagnosis:

Open-angle glaucoma

Open-angle is the most common type of glaucoma. Recommended exercises include:

  • Jogging – Lowers IOP
  • Yoga – Reduces stress
  • Eye exercises – Improve trabecular drainage

Angle-closure glaucoma

Exercises to avoid pupillary blockage that can trigger angle-closure glaucoma attacks:

  • Aerobics in bright lighting – Helps keep pupils constricted
  • Relaxation techniques – Reduce emotional stress that can dilate pupils

Normal-tension glaucoma

Exercises that increase blood flow to enhance optic nerve perfusion:

  • Cardio training – Boosts circulation
  • Inversions like headstand in yoga – Improve blood flow to the eyes

Are there any limitations to exercise for glaucoma patients?

Most types of exercise are safe and beneficial with a few precautions:

  • Avoid straining while lifting weights which can spike IOP.
  • In yoga, avoid inverted poses like headstands if you have severe glaucoma as it can increase eye pressure.
  • If outdoors, wear UV eye protection when exercising in bright sunlight.
  • Stay well-hydrated and listen to your body to prevent exertion headaches.
  • Check with your ophthalmologist about any exercise restrictions specific to your glaucoma diagnosis and severity.


Regular exercise is an important part of managing glaucoma. Aerobic activities, yoga, eye exercises and strength training can all help control IOP, improve blood flow and drainage, and lower stress. Aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. Work with your eye doctor to develop a safe and effective fitness program customized to your type and stage of glaucoma.