Exercising will not prevent the natural stiffening of ocular muscles with age. Photo: Trust "Tru" Katsande on Unsplash

While exercise has been shown to improve vascular stiffness in many regions of the body, its impact on ocular circulation is not well-understood. To address this, a team of researchers recently examined the effects of aging and exercise on ocular circulation by assessing blowout score and blowout time as well as mean blur rate. They hypothesized that exercise habits can reduce the stiffness of vessels that typically increase with aging; however, their findings suggest this is not the case.

The researchers obtained data from 1,079 participants in a medical checkup program. Of those, 880 participants (698 males and 182 females) met the study criteria. Participants were categorized by their age and exercise habits. Laser speckle flowgraphy was used to measure and analyze ocular blood flow in the right eye. The researchers calculated the blowout time as an index of the blood flow profile.

The researchers reported that mean blur rate-all and mean blur rate-vessel as well as all sections of the blowout score and blowout time were significantly lower among elderly patients. Additionally, ocular perfusion pressure was higher in this group. When compared with the exercise group, the researchers found that mean blur rate-all, mean blur rate-vessel, blowout score-all, blowout score-vessel, blowout score-ChBFlow and blowout time were significantly higher in the non-exercise group.

Overall, the study authors reported that blowout time decreased with aging and exercise habits did not have a significant impact on ocular circulation. “Effects of age on the ocular circulation were found, demonstrating the stiffening of ocular vessels with age,” they explained. “However, exercise habits did not alter the ocular circulation, while there were significant interactions of age and exercise habits on mean blur rate-vessel and blowout time-all and a marginal significant interaction on blowout score-tissue.”

Based on these findings, the study authors concluded that stiffness of the ocular vessels increases with age and cannot be prevented or improved by a patient’s exercise habits.

Liu C, Kobayashi T, Shiba T, et al. Effects of aging and exercise habits on blood flow profile of the ocular circulation. PLoS ONE. April 14, 2022. [Epub ahead of print].