Our children are our most precious creation. The health of their kids is constantly on a parent’s mind, which is why they let them run around outside, explore, and even get dirty—exercise and fresh air is good for their growing bodies. According to new data, being outside can also reduce the risk of nearsightedness in children.
The findings came out in the May issue of Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Ophthalmology is the study of the eye, but differs from general optometry in that it focuses specifically on dealing with the anatomy, physiology, and diseases relating to the eye.
The study, conducted on Taiwanese children, found a direct correlation between fluctuations in daylight and the rate with which nearsightedness developed. Students in two elementary schools—one which required at least 80 minutes of outside recess, and another where recess was optional and done indoors—were given a thorough eye exam prior to the test, and then another one a year later.
Students who attended the school with required outdoor recess were found to have a significantly lower chance of developing nearsightedness or shift towards nearsightedness, compared to the students who didn’t have outdoor recess.
Nearsightedness, also known as myopia, has intensified to near epidemic proportions in Taiwan and surrounding countries, so this research could not come too soon for the afflicted region, and immediate changes in school schedules were implemented to increase the time spent outdoors.
Even in the U.S., nearsightedness has increased by an alarming 65% since 1970, and scientists are beginning to look into environmental factors to explain the sudden jump in children with myopia.
A separate report from Denmark showed similar results that spending more time outdoors reduced children’s risk of becoming nearsighted, supporting the data found in Taiwan. Dr. Donmei Cui, the leading researcher in charge of the study, commented about what his team’s findings indicate about child health, saying “This means that parents and others who manage children’s time should encourage them to spend time outdoors daily.”
Unlike adults who have nearsightedness, the problem is correctable in children, but preventative measures must be taken during childhood or else the condition can become permanent, or worse, develop into a more serious eye disorder such as glaucoma or retinal detachment.
Learn more about taking care of you and your kids’ eyes by browsing through our Optical Center Knowledge Center where you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions and be able to talk to one of our Gainesville eye specialists.