Playing Outdoors Can Be Eye Opening!
It seems I should have played outside more often when I was a child. I wonder if it’s too late. Why am I considering more playtime? Not my second childhood – I like to think I’m still a “kid at heart” but did you know that playing outdoors may reduce the risk of myopia or nearsightedness? That’s what they’re saying! Who says so, you ask? Not your Mom, well not unless she was assisting with a recent study in the UK, that is!
You see (no pun intended) Dr Anthony Khawaja of the University of Cambridge UK made a presentation in Orlando Florida at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. I always thought Mom encouraged me to play outdoors because she wanted a little peace and quiet, but she might just have been onto something more! In a press statement, Dr Khawaja said that "Increasing children's outdoor time could be a simple and cost-effective measure with important benefits for their vision and general health." Wow. That’s great news!
It seems that myopia is much more common throughout the world these days compared to 40 years ago. Could this be related to changes in lifestyle? The data reviewed did include comparisons of time spend using computers, and reading and other such activities, but didn’t specifically identify these as factors. Nor did it suggest specific outdoor activities which might have strengthened the eyes. Further study is needed to potentially identify specific activities which a child might engage in for optimum benefit. One thing is for sure, though. The children in the study who spent a controlled amount of time outdoors did have less risk of myopia compared to those in the uncontrolled group. The study included 80 children over a two year period.
"Future, prospective studies will help us understand which factors, such as increased use of distance vision, reduced use of near vision, natural ultra violet light exposure or physical activity, are most important," said Dr Khawaha. Well, one thing that cannot be denied is that fresh air and playing outdoors has always been known to be a healthy choice for the young and the not-so-young and this just provides us with one more reason why!