Playing outside may reduce the odds your child will need eyeglasses for seeing at a distance, as new research suggests that more time spent outdoors can help prevent nearsightedness in children.
A Chinese study found that adding 40 minutes of outdoor activity to the school day resulted in lower rates of myopia (nearsightedness) in young children. Cumulative myopic shift, a measure of myopia, was also significantly less with the addition of outdoor activity.
Further studies are needed to assess long-term follow-up of these children and the generalizability of these findings. But among the 6-year-olds who participated in the study in Guangzhou, China, the addition of 40 minutes of outdoor activity compared with their other usual activities resulted in a reduced incidence rate of myopia over a 3-year period.
The researchers aren’t clear why outdoor play helps reduce the risk of myopia for kids, but they do know it’s an influence. Some experts have speculated it’s the exercise that’s key to better eye health. But other studies in which kids were given extra recess indoors, found that exercise alone does not affect myopia rates.
It may be that sunlight helps with eye growth and function. Or it could be that time spent away from books and computers helps keep the eyes in shape. When kids are outdoors, their eyes have more opportunities to focus on things at varying eye lengths — such as butterflies fluttering around the flowers, birds flying among the trees, and the shapes of clouds high above — which gives their close-up vision a rest.
Either way, it’s a good reason to spend some extra time outside today!