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Lighting Lights the Way to More Physical Activity at Home Among Participants in a Glaucoma Study

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Johns Hopkins researchers investigated how home environments may affect physical activity.

Well-lit homes were associated with greater physical activity among older people with glaucoma or who are at risk of developing the eye disease, according to research results reported today in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Seema Banerjee, Ph.D., of the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, found that lighting, as measured in lux using a digital light meter, was associated daily step count and other measures of physical activity. However, measurements of household hazards for tripping and falling, such as torn or frayed carpets and loose electric and phone cords on the floor, were not associated with differences in physical activity.

They also found that the degree of visual impairment was not associated with physical activity differences, a result, they argued, that could make their findings about the importance of lighting applicable to those without vision deficits.

The background to the study is strong evidence that visual impairment can affect physical activity and that people with conditions such as glaucoma tend to spend time more time at home. Researchers have also investigated the relationship between home environments, including lighting, the risk of falls, mainly in older people. There are of course, countless studies showing the health benefits of physical activity, even the relatively light physical activity involved in households tasks such as cooking and cleaning.

Their study, wrote Banerjee and her colleagues, would fill a gap:“Minimal research exists to show the extent to which home environment features affect physical activity.”

Banerjee recruited people to be in the study from the Falls in Glaucoma Study at the Wilmer Eye. People were paid per study visit to participate. A total of 153 people with glaucoma or with factors that suggest that they are at higher risk of developing the disease were included in the analyses. Their average age was 71, 29% were Black people and a majority (54%) were male. Participants wore accelerometers that measured their activity. Home environments were done by a trained evaluator who took light measurements and used a standardized assessment of hazards. The participants were asked not to clean up before the evaluator came.

The results showed that for every 0.1-log unit increment in average measured home lighting, participants took 5% more daily steps and had a 3% faster average daily peak cadence.

“Our study showed that with better lighting, individuals are likely to do more physical activity at home, which in turn may lead to an increase in performance of simple daily activities at home and maintenance of independence in an older population,” Banerjee and colleagues wrote in the discussion section of the study.

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