Playing Outside Helps Reduce Nearsightedness In Children
May 1, 2013

Playing Outside Helps Reduce Nearsightedness In Children

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

Researchers writing in the May issue of Ophthalmology say kids who get a little outdoor recess time at school have a reduced risk of developing nearsightedness.

The research includes two studies conducted in separate countries involving different children. The first study, conducted in Taiwan, was the first to use an educational policy as a public vision health intervention. This study found when children are required to spend more time outdoors, their risk of nearsightedness is reduced. The second study, conducted on Danish children, showed a direct correlation between seasonal fluctuations in daylight, eye growth and the rate of nearsightedness progression.

For the first study, an elementary school in Taiwan required its 333 students to spend recess outdoors for a year from 2009 to 2010. The team looked into whether this would reduce myopia rates. Another school nearby served as a control group and did not require outdoor recess. Children from the first elementary school spent a total of 80 minutes per day outdoors.

Results from the first study showed fewer children became nearsighted or shifted toward nearsightedness in the school that required outdoor recess, compared with the control school. The team recommends elementary schools in Asia and other regions add frequent recess breaks and other outdoor activities to their daily schedules to help protect children's eye development and vision.

"Because children spend a lot of time in school, a school-based intervention is a direct and practical way to tackle the increasing prevalence of myopia," said the leader of the study, Pei-Chang Wu, MD, PhD, of Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

The second study analyzed data collected in a 2005 clinical trial that included 235 Danish school children. The team divided students into seven groups, each of which represented a different seasonal interval. They found children with access to the fewest hours of daylight had more eye growth than children with the most access to daylight.

"Our results indicate that exposure to daylight helps protect children from myopia," said the leader of the study, Dongmei Cui, MD, PhD, of Sun Yat-sen University in China. "This means that parents and others who manage children's time should encourage them to spend time outdoors daily. When that's impractical due to weather or other factors, use of daylight-spectrum indoor lights should be considered as a way to minimize myopia."

Results from this study help kick off the start of Healthy Vision Month. For the month of May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention´s Vision Health Initiative (VHI) is partnering with the National Eye Institute to help encourage Americans to make vision a health priority.