Isometric Exercise Raises Intraocular Pressure

Angiofluorography of a patient showing a risk of glaucoma. (Photo by: BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Investigators applied continuous IOP measurements during load-bearing exercises and found similar pressure rises independent of muscle group, and subject sex.

Ophthalmologists consistently advise a healthy diet and exercise regimen to benefit patients’ eyes, along with their body’s other systems — however, researchers are now finding that weight training increases intraocular pressure (IOP) and may not be advisable for those predisposed to glaucoma.

The study applied continuous IOP measurement during weight-bearing isometric exercise. The results show a longer period of progressive rise in IOP than previous studies, which showed a linear increase after 1 minute of weight work.

“Our data revealed that performing 2 minutes of isometric exercise leading to muscular failure (high-load condition) promoted a progressive IOP rise, regardless of exercise type and participants’ sex,” the researchers wrote. “Namely, the military press, biceps curl, leg extensions, and calf raise exercises caused a comparable increment of IOP levels during the high-load condition (average IOP rise of ~25%; range, 22 to 26%) for both men and women.”

They found no statistically significant difference between exercises using different muscle groups, which contrasts with prior studies showing elevated IOP based in part on muscle group location in the body. In addition, previous research found contradictory results regarding IOP responses in women and men.

“Overall, there were no meaningful differences between men and women in IOP responses to physical exercise, with the only exception being the military press exercise, in which men showed a greater IOP rise in comparison to women,” the researchers explained.

In prior analyses, IOP was recorded before and after exercise. Conversely, this study examined participants’ pressure with a rebound tonometer before, during, and following exertion. This method proved meaningful because IOP recovered to a baseline level within 10 seconds of rest.

The study’s authors note that future research is indicated to test those with, or predisposed to glaucoma. They also suggest examination of the effects on IOP from performing other exercises, such as yoga, as well as an investigation of whether fitness level can mediate IOP responses to physical exertion.


Vera J, Redondo B, Koulieris G, et al., Intraocular pressure responses to four different isometric exercises in men and womenOptomVis Sci. 2020; 97(8):648-653. doi: 10.1097/OPX.0000000000001545.