Along with its infinite other health benefits, regular exercise may lower your risk of AMD. Photo: Getty Images.

There is no evidence-based therapeutic intervention to prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD) onset or delay progression, but a healthy lifestyle has been shown to reduce the risk of disease development. In a recent study, researchers analyzed population-based cohort studies to better characterize the impact of physical activity on AMD onset and progression.

A total of 14,630 adults with no or early AMD at baseline from seven population-based studies were included. High levels of physical activity were found to be associated with a reduced risk of early AMD incidence across several large population-based cohorts with a stronger association in the younger population. Physical activity did not have an effect on the progression from early to late AMD.

“Our results are in agreement with the previously reported association of low physical activity with higher AMD prevalence from cross-sectional studies and thus underscore the importance of physical activity as a modifiable lifestyle risk factor to prevent AMD,” the authors explained.

A previous study suggested that increased physical activity lowers the incidence of late AMD, but not early AMD.

“In contrast, we found an association with early AMD, and again we have likely been underpowered for the detection of any association of physical activity with late AMD incidence which was at 0.9%—considerably lower than the 2%,” the authors explained. “We found the strongest association of high physical activity on early AMD in the youngest cohort, which may indicate that the effect is largest around the sixth decade.” The authors said this should be confirmed in further studies comparing younger and older cohorts.

“Based on our results, lifestyle advice for patients at risk of AMD ought to include recommendations to be physically active,” the authors concluded.

Mauschitz MM, Schmitz MT, Verzijden T, et al. Physical activity, incidence and progression of age-related macular degeneration: a multi-cohort study. Am J Ophthalmol. October 8, 2021. [Epub ahead of print].