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Time Spent Outside and Nearsightedness

Another study found that young children who more time spent outside in natural light for 3 years resulted in fewer cases of myopia (near-sightedness). Specifically, the good results were found from one additional 40-minute class of outdoor activities each school day, as well as parents encouraging their children to play outdoors after school hours, especially during weekends and holidays. So....those of you who are parents of children huddled inside - get them outside daily in the sunlight to soak up sunshine for vitamin D and to help their vision. From Science Daily:

Additional time spent outdoors by children results in decreased rate of nearsightedness

The addition of a daily outdoor activity class at school for three years for children in Guangzhou, China, resulted in a reduction in the rate of myopia (nearsightedness, the ability to see close objects more clearly than distant objects), according to a study in the September 15 issue of JAMA.

Myopia has reached epidemic levels in young adults in some urban areas of East and Southeast Asia. In these areas, 80 percent to 90 percent of high school graduates now have myopia. Myopia also appears to be increasing, more slowly, in populations of European and Middle Eastern origin. Currently, there is no effective intervention for preventing onset. Recent studies have suggested that time spent outdoors may prevent the development of myopia, according to background information in the article.

Mingguang He, M.D., Ph.D., of Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China, and colleagues conducted a study in which children in grade 1 from 12 primary schools in Guangzhou, China (six intervention schools [n = 952 students]; six control schools [n = 951 students], were assigned to 1 additional 40-minute class of outdoor activities, added to each school day, and parents were encouraged to engage their children in outdoor activities after school hours, especially during weekends and holidays (intervention schools); or children and parents continued their usual pattern of activity (control schools). The average age of the children was 6.6 years.

The 3-year cumulative incidence rate of myopia was 30.4 percent (259 cases among 853 eligible participants) in the intervention group and 39.5 percent (287 cases among 726 eligible participants) in the control group. Cumulative change in spherical equivalent refraction (myopic shift) after 3 years was significantly less in the intervention group than in the control group.

"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.

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