Kids’ eyes benefit from the outdoors
More time outdoors may reduce the odds a child will need eyeglasses, according to a study that linked adding 40 minutes of daily outdoor activity to lower rates of nearsightedness among school-aged Chinese children.
The incidence of nearsightedness, also called myopia, was 30.4 percent for the kids who spent more time outside compared to the nearly 40 percent for those who did not change their routine, according to the study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
“The study demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in the cumulative incidence of myopia, but there were design limitations of the study to consider,” says Dr. Belal Bakir, an ophthalmologist at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill. “The age of the children is young and with only three years of follow up it is not clear if this benefit may subside as they get older and more may develop myopia.”
About 950 children from six schools were assigned one additional 40-minute class with daily outdoor activities. Parents were also directed to encourage them to spend more time outside after school and on the weekends.
The researchers said more long-term studies are needed to support their findings, and “establishing the long-term effect of additional outdoor activities on the development and progression of myopia is particularly important because the intervention is essentially free and may have other benefits.”
Dr. Bakir says the most important advice for parents is to have their children’s vision screened.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus recommends newborn, infant (6 to 12 months old), preschool (3 to 3.5 years old), and school-aged vision screenings, or whenever a problem is suspected.
“If your child fails a vision-screening test, has a visual complaint, has a medical condition that places them at risk for an eye disease, a full eye exam by an ophthalmologist or optometrist is recommended,” says Dr. Bakir.
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