Ward off blindness with a walk around the block

“There are no known ways of preventing glaucoma.”

That’s the prevailing wisdom where this common eye disease is concerned, straight from the horse’s mouth. (Or in this case, from the Glaucoma Research Foundation). And considering that there are also no known ways of curing glaucoma — a leading cause of legal blindness in this country — it’s hard to imagine a dimmer outlook.

Which is exactly what makes the latest research presented at this year’s Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology so exciting.

This study relied on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), with a specific focus on physical activity — and in this case, walking, as measured by speed and number of steps. (The magic number here was 7,000 steps daily — in other words, the equivalent of 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity, five days a week.)

And, well… let’s just say that, for a disease that supposedly can’t be prevented, regular exercise made a pretty big difference.

In fact, results showed that every 10-unit increase in walking speed was associated with a 6 percent drop in glaucoma risk. Meanwhile, every 10-minute increase in weekly moderate-to-vigorous exercise duration correlated to a 25 percent drop in glaucoma risk.

Ultimately, the most physically active subjects in this study had a 73 percent lower risk of glaucoma than their sedentary counterparts. Which is to say, any exercise is good. But the longer and harder your workout, the bigger the benefit to your eyes.

The working theory is that exercise helps to reduce eye pressure, which appears to be a key factor in the development of glaucoma. But these study authors insist that more research is necessary before doctors are able to issue recommendations aimed at preventing this incurable eye disease.

Call me a rebel, but I’m more than ready to go out on that limb. Because let’s face it. There’s not much that a daily walk can’t do for your health. Just 20 to 30 minutes a day, at a good pace — after dinner or whenever you can fit it in — will do wonders for your preventative health.

If you’re not already taking at least one good stroll every day, consider this yet another compelling reason to start.