Exercise can help relieve dry, itchy eyes

WATERLOO, Ontario — Exercise keeps our bodies healthy and our moods positive. Now, new research finds a solid workout session can also provide some serious relief for dry, itchy eyes. Scientists from the University of Waterloo report both tear secretion and tear film stability increase considerably after aerobic exercise.

Let’s dive into those findings a little deeper. Each time someone blinks, an essential protective coating called tear film covers their eyes. These films are absolutely essential to maintaining healthy eye functions. A healthy tear film contains three distinct parts: water, oil, and mucin. All three of those layers work in unison to ensure the ocular surface has enough hydration and protection against any number of irritants such as dust or dirt.

If any one of those layers is out of whack, the eye can become dry, which eventually leads to symptoms such as itchiness or even a burning sensation.

“With so much of our activity tied to screen usage, dry eye symptoms are becoming increasingly common,” says Heinz Otchere, a PhD candidate in vision science at Waterloo, in a university release. “Instead of having to use eye drops or other alternative treatments, our study aimed to determine if remaining physically active can be an effective preventative measure against dryness.”

Even exercising once a week helps your eyes

A total of 52 people took part in this study, with half of them being athletes. Both the “athlete” and “non-athlete” groups had to exercise according to certain schedules. Athletes worked out at least five times per week, while non-athletes only exercised once per week. Before and five minutes after each exercise session, the research team performed visual examinations and measured each person’s tear secretion and tear break-up time.

While athletes displayed the biggest increases in tear secretion and tear break-up time, even the non-athletes who only worked out once per week showed significant ocular improvements.

“It can be challenging for people to regularly exercise when the demand is there to work increasingly longer hours in front of screens,” Otchere concludes. “However, our findings show physical activity can be really important for not just our overall well-being, but for our ocular health too.”

The study is published in the journal Experimental Eye Research.

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