Physical activity is associated with macular thickness: a multi-cohort observational study

Ella C. Berry, Henry N. Marshall, Sean Mullany, Santiago Diaz Torres, Joshua Schmidt, Daniel Thomson, Lachlan S. W. Knight, Georgina L. Hollitt, Ayub Qassim, Bronwyn Ridge, Angela Schulz, Mark M. Hassall, Thi Thi Nguyen, Stewart Lake, Richard A. Mills, Ashish Agar, Anna Galanopoulos, John Landers, Paul R. Healey, Stuart L. GrahamAlex W. Hewitt, Stuart MacGregor, Robert J. Casson, Owen M. Siggs, Jamie E. Craig

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Purpose: To assess the association between physical activity and spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT)-measured rates of macular thinning in an adult population with primary open-angle glaucoma. Methods: The correlation between accelerometer-measured physical activity and rates of macular ganglion cell-inner plexiform layer (GCIPL) thinning was measured in 735 eyes from 388 participants of the Progression Risk of Glaucoma: RElevant SNPs with Significant Association (PROGRESSA) study. The association between accelerometer-measured physical activity and cross-sectional SD-OCT macular thickness was then assessed in 8862 eyes from 6152 participants available for analysis in the UK Biobank who had SD-OCT, ophthalmic, comorbidity, and demographic data. Results: Greater physical activity was associated with slower rates of macular GCIPL thinning in the PROGRESSA study (beta = 0.07 µm/y/SD; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.03-0.13; P = 0.003) after adjustment for ophthalmic, demographic and systemic predictors of macular thinning. This association persisted in subanalyses of participants characterized as glaucoma suspects (beta = 0.09 µm/y/SD; 95% CI, 0.03-0.15; P = 0.005). Participants in the upper tertile (greater than 10,524 steps/d) exhibited a 0.22-µm/y slower rate of macular GCIPL thinning than participants in the lower tertile (fewer than 6925 steps/d): -0.40 ± 0.46 µm/y versus -0.62 ± 0.55 µm/y (P = 0.003). Both time spent doing moderate/vigorous activity and mean daily active calories were positively correlated with rate of macular GCIPL thinning (moderate/vigorous activity: beta = 0.06 µm/y/SD; 95% CI, 0.01-0.105; P = 0.018; active calories: beta = 0.06 µm/y/SD; 95% CI, 0.006-0.114; P = 0.032). Analysis among 8862 eyes from the UK Biobank revealed a positive association between physical activity and cross-sectional total macular thickness (beta = 0.8 µm/SD; 95% CI, 0.47-1.14; P < 0.001). Conclusions: These results highlight the potential neuroprotective benefits of exercise on the human retina.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2023. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • macular
  • physical activity
  • optical coherence tomography
  • aging
  • exercise


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