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Encouraging your clients to exercise could save their sight

This blog post was written using information provided by the Macular Disease Foundation Australia.

Regular exercise and a healthy diet would help save the sight of 1.1 million Australians living with diabetes.

Diabetic eye disease is a common complication of diabetes and the leading cause of blindness among working age adults in Australia. The longer a person has diabetes, the greater their risk of developing diabetic eye disease.

Although diabetes cannot be cured, the complications and related health problems can be significantly reduced or prevented in the vast majority of people with optimal management of blood glucose levels, careful attention to diet, weight management and regular physical activity.

‘Regular exercise helps insulin to work better, lowers the blood pressure, helps reduce weight and reduces stress’ said Julie Heraghty, CEO of Macular Disease Foundation Australia; ‘A relatively small weight loss of even 5 to 10 per cent of current weight can result in a significant reduction of risk.

‘Fitness professionals can help their clients reduce their risk of blindness by encouraging them to commit to regular aerobic exercise and resistance training. Brisk walking, running, cycling swimming and dancing in between days where they participate in formal workouts will help with aerobic fitness. Moderate weight training will improve muscle strength and complement their aerobic exercise.’

Heraghty noted that diet is also critical in the management of blood glucose levels: ‘Healthy eating for diabetes includes selecting high fibre, lower glycemic index (GI) carbohydrate foods and reducing fat, especially saturated fat. Of course clients should be encouraged to quit smoking as well, because smoking increases blood pressure and sugar levels, making it harder to control diabetes.’

She cautioned that people with diabetes should be encouraged to make any changes to lifestyle and diet in conjunction with a GP or diabetes specialist.

So what can fitness professionals do? You can help save your clients’ sight by encouraging them to:
Incorporate exercise into their daily routine
Adopt a healthy balanced diet
Quit smoking.

Early detection is critical. Early diabetic eye disease does not have any symptoms and progressive damage occurs before any change to vision. Even people who have their diabetes under control are at risk of developing diabetic eye disease.

Once symptoms develop, vision loss can occur rapidly and be permanent: ‘If a client notices any change in vision, such as dark areas, blurred, distorted, dim or double vision or difficulty seeing at night, they should make an appointment with an eye specialist immediately, through a GP or optometrist referral’ said Heraghty.

For information on preventing diabetic eye disease visit

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