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Outside Play Time Linked to Better Eyesight

Nov. 10, 2015|834 views
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This week we’ve learned that evidence of heart disease is showing up in small children as young as 6 when children are overweight and largely sedentary. If that’s not a wake-up call, I don’t know what is. Children naturally want to move. To be outside, running, playing, using their imaginations, having fun…

Time spent out-of-doors has consistently been linked to all sorts of favorable outcomes, including better sleep quality, lower body mass index, and less anxiety and depression. And now, according to a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), time spent outdoors has been linked to better eyesight among children. In short, the more time children spent playing out-of-doors, the less likely they were to be diagnosed with myopia, a condition requiring corrective lenses (glasses, or contacts) to correct nearsightedness.

This surprising finding, arrived at using a randomized study design, is just the latest evidence that children need time outdoors to thrive and achieve optimal wellness. In East and Southeast Asia, where the study was conducted, investigators note that myopia (nearsightedness) is presently at epidemic proportions.

"Our study achieved an absolute difference of 9.1 percent in the incidence rate of myopia, representing a 23 percent relative reduction in incident myopia after 3 years, which was less than the anticipated reduction. However, this is clinically important because small children who develop myopia early are most likely to progress to high myopia, which increases the risk of pathological myopia. Thus a delay in the onset of myopia in young children, who tend to have a higher rate of progression, could provide disproportionate long-term eye health benefits," the authors write.

In a related editorial, Michael X. Repka, M.D., M.B.A., of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, commented on the findings: "Given the popular appeal of increased outdoor activities to improve the health of school-aged children in general, the potential benefit of slowing myopia development and progression by those same activities is difficult to ignore. Although prescribing this approach with the intent of helping to prevent myopia would appear to have no risk, parents should understand that the magnitude of the effect is likely to be small and the durability is uncertain."

Mingguang He, Fan Xiang, Yangfa Zeng, Jincheng Mai, Qianyun Chen, Jian Zhang, Wayne Smith, Kathryn Rose, Ian G. Morgan. Effect of Time Spent Outdoors at School on the Development of Myopia Among Children in China. JAMA, 2015; 314 (11): 1142 DOI: 10.1001/jama.2015.10803

Michael X. Repka. Prevention of Myopia in Children. JAMA, 2015; 314 (11): 1137 DOI: 10.1001/jama.2015.10723


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