As though we needed another nudge toward aerobic exercise, a recent study published in BMC Ophthalmology found that aerobic exercise promotes tear secretion and improves tear film stability in dry eye patients. Dry eye is a multifactorial ocular surface disease characterized by a loss of homeostasis of the tear film. And while this was a small study of 45 subjects, researchers investigated six tear compositions before and after aerobic exercise, the variations of tear meniscus height, average tear breakup time, lipid layer thickness, the number of incomplete and complete blinks, partial blink rate and visual acuity before and after aerobic exercise.

Although dry eye occurs more often in patients over age 50, subjects in this study were aged 18 to 30 to avoid the possible adverse impact of aerobic exercise for older subjects. However, of 34 men and 11 women, 30 subjects had a clinical diagnosis of dry eye, and 15 had pre-clinical dry eye, that is, those who had symptoms of dry eye, but without clinical signs. Researchers evaluated the criteria noted above before and after subjects jogged for 30 minutes outside in 78-degree weather and 55 percent humidity.

Researchers found an increase in tear secretion at 30 minutes after aerobic exercise in dry eye patients, although there was no significant change in the pre-clinical subjects. Regarding tear composition, they found a statistical difference in only one element of tear composition—an oxidative stress marker was significantly reduced in the dry eye subjects after exercise. Oxidative stress damages the ocular surface and plays an important role in the mechanism of dry eye disease. Results also showed longer tear breakup time, decreased incomplete blinking, increased complete blinking and improved visual acuity for at least 30 minutes after exercise across both groups, but more significantly for subjects with dry eye, when compared to a control group that did not exercise. All of those factors promote tear secretion and improve tear film stability.

Currently, drug therapy is the main treatment for dry eye. But while more research is needed to determine the long-term beneficial effects of regular aerobic exercise on dry eye disease, it may be a potential treatment. It’s inexpensive, readily available and has overall health benefits. So grab your sneakers, take to the treadmill, track or trail, and do yourself more good than you may think!

Learn more about new treatments for dry eye disease with our CE, “Regenerative Medicine–Renewed Hope for Dry Eye Disease Solution” at

Linda Conlin
Pro to Pro Managing Editor
[email protected]