Patients often ask us about the impact of an eye surgery in their fitness routine. It’s important to stay active, but some exercise may do more harm than good.
Here are general guidelines that may help you—but remember: Always ask your ophthalmologist before resuming any form of exercise.
After cataract surgery, there are a few activity restrictions that help ensure a trouble-free recovery, including:
- No swimming. Water can cause infection or irritate the eye. Depending on your surgery, swimming (in any type of water) may be restricted for up to 4 weeks to protect the eye.
- No strenuous exercise. Large spikes in your heart rate can raise eye pressure, which can disturb healing of the eye.
- Avoid lifting weights or other heavy objects
- Don’t put your head below your waist, such as with yoga positions
Light aerobics like walking may be permitted soon after surgery. Your surgeon can tell you when you can resume more vigorous exercise.
Regular, moderate-level exercise is healthy and safe with glaucoma. But extreme exercise—pushing and straining your body too much—can raise pressure inside the eye (this pressure is known as IOP, or intraocular pressure). High IOP can lead to optic nerve damage and vision loss.
For those who practice yoga, the Glaucoma Research Foundation recommends avoiding prolonged head-down poses such as:
- Downward-facing dog
- Standing forward bend
If you’re a fan of weightlifting and core (abdominal) exercises, watch your breathing:
- Holding your breath can raise eye pressure and cause other health problems.
- Never hold your breath while lifting weights unless instructed by a qualified trainer.
Returning to physical activity after glaucoma surgery
Restrictions vary by the type of glaucoma procedure:
- Laser surgery: Typically, there are no restrictions but confirm with your surgeon.
- Trabeculectomy and glaucoma drainage device (tube implant surgery): No swimming or getting water directly in your eyes. Avoid any lifting, bending or straining until cleared by your doctor. Light exercise like walking or treadmill may be permitted.
LASIK surgery and exercise
Safe activity guidelines after refractive surgery include:
- No swimming and exposing your eye to water for a minimum of 2 weeks until your eye heals.
- No strenuous exercise for 2 weeks.
- When you are outdoors, wear sunglasses—even on cloudy days—to protect your healing eyes from UV rays and debris.
Retinal conditions and exercise
For those with retinal conditions like lattice degeneration, high myopia or posterior vitreous detachment, there is a higher risk of retinal detachment. Sports that include blows to the head and potential for whiplash injury or eye trauma (boxing, kickboxing, or other combat sports, bungee jumping, bumper car rides or skydiving) raise the risk even higher.
If you are cleared to play sports like basketball or racquetball, wear protective eyewear to prevent eye injury.
In general, exercise is encouraged in those with diseases of the retina. It benefits your overall health and may even improve your eye health.
If you see new floaters, flashes of light or other changes in vision, see your ophthalmologist as soon as possible.
Resuming physical activity after retinal surgery
Retinal specialists follow general guidelines for a safe return to exercise. But these guidelines will not apply to every person. Ask your surgeon when you can get back to your normal routine.
- No strenuous (tough or challenging) exercise for 1 to 2 weeks after most retinal surgery. Light exercise, like walking, may be safe. Ask your doctor.
- No swimming (or direct exposure of water to the eyes) for 1 to 2 weeks after most retinal surgery. Swimming is also restricted immediately after eye injections, such as Avastin or Eylea for AMD.
- No flying, high altitudes (mountains) and scuba diving after retinal surgery with a gas bubble. These and all other physical activities are restricted until the gas bubble goes away. Your doctor will give you guidance about when this might happen.