Playing Outside Could Help Preserve Children’s Vision

Children Outside

Keeping your nose in the books sounds great, but it’s not so good for your eyes. Studies show that reading or using electronic devices for extended periods of time causes eye strain and can damage your vision.

Taking regular breaks from reading and screen time is important, especially for children. The key is balancing “close up” activities with activities that use distance vision. According to Chinese researchers, led by Dr. He Mingguang, a Chinese ophthalmologist and leading myopia researcher, getting children to play outside for 40 minutes per day can curb the growing rate of nearsightedness.

Nearsightedness tends to run in families, but environmental factors can affect the condition as well. Frequency of screen time, prolonged exposure to blue light from electronic devices, and not keeping adequate distance between the eyes and screen may exacerbate nearsightedness. Now, researchers wonder whether altering children’s early environment may reduce their risk for myopia.

Dr. Mingguang and a group of colleagues recruited 12 schools in China to participate in a three-year study. Six schools were asked to implement a 40-minute outdoor playtime each day, and the other six schools kept their regular schedule. The students and their parents kept a diary of the amount of outdoor playtime they had on weekends.

Over the duration of the study, 259 out of 853 students in the outdoor play group were found to be nearsighted and 287 out of 726 students in the control group were nearsighted. Although the difference between 20 percent and 40 percent is not monumental, it is significant.

The researchers concluded, “This is clinically important because small children who develop myopia early are most likely to progress to high myopia, which increases the risk of pathological myopia. Thus a delay in the onset of myopia in young children, who tend to have a higher rate of progression, could provide disproportionate long-term eye health benefits” (Source: BBC).

The team admits that more time is needed to understand the results of this study. One theory may be that more exposure to daylight helps with eye growth and function.