Can hitting the treadmill or the walking trail help your glaucoma patients? The answer is yes, according to a new study published in Ophthalmology that found glaucoma patients who were less sedentary and engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity had slower rates of visual field (VF) loss.

The study reported an additional 5,000 daily steps or 2.6 hours of non-sedentary physical activity decreased the average rate of VF loss in glaucoma patients by roughly 10 percent.

In this longitudinal, observational study, 141 older adults with suspect or manifest glaucoma wore accelerometers for one week to track average steps per day, minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity, and minutes of non-sedentary activity. Investigators also analyzed VF measurements before and after physical activity.

On a daily basis, patients who on average logged 1,000 steps, engaged in ten additional minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity, and spent 30 more minutes doing non-sedentary activity had slower VF loss. Researchers noted the factors associated with a faster rate of VF loss included older age, non-Caucasian race, glaucoma surgery, cataract surgery, and moderate baseline VF damage. Investigators also found similar associations between baseline accelerometer-measured physical activity and rates of VF loss at years one, three and five of the assessment.

Future prospective studies are needed to determine if physical activity can slow VF loss in glaucoma and if progressive VF loss results in activity restriction, the study noted. “If the former is confirmed, this would mark physical activity as a novel modifiable risk factor for preventing glaucoma damage,” researchers said.

Lee MJ, Wang J, Friedman, DS, et al. Greater physical activity is associated with slower visual field loss in glaucoma. Ophthalmol. October 10, 2018. [Epub ahead of print].