Researchers recently investigated a possible relationship between physical activity and visual field damage in glaucoma patients, since low levels of activity may indicate future health challenges and risk of functional decline.

The prospective cohort study included older adults diagnosed with glaucoma or suspected glaucoma. Daily physical activity was measured with hip accelerometers for one week. Higher fragmentation of activity indicated more transient, rather than sustained, activity.

The researchers found that for each 5-unit dB decrease in visual field sensitivity, there were 16.3 fewer active minutes per day and 2% higher activity fragmentation—both of which were statistically significant differences. However, the researchers found no association with the number of active bouts per day. Lower visual field sensitivity was associated with fewer steps in three-hour blocks from 11am through 8pm.

The researchers concluded that glaucoma patients demonstrate shorter, more fragmented bouts of physical activity throughout the day and lower activity levels during typical waking hours at worse levels of visual field damage.

They also noted that “further work is needed to establish the temporality of this association (i.e., whether these activity changes contribute to glaucoma disease severity, or are downstream effects), and whether glaucoma patients with such activity patterns are at greater risk of the adverse health outcomes associated with activity fragmentation.”

Jian-Yu E, Schrack J, Mihailovic A, et al. Patterns of daily physical activity across the spectrum of visual field damage in glaucoma patients. Ophthalmology. June 23, 2020. [Epub ahead of print].