Does Outside Playtime Improve Children's Eyesight?

Girls playing outside

Spending time outdoors offers important benefits for kids of all ages. Running, walking, skipping and jumping offers much-needed aerobic exercise, helps young people avoid childhood obesity and strengthens friendships. Although the social and physical benefits of outdoor time are well-documented, the effects of outdoor play on eyesight haven't been as well examined until recently.

Outdoor Play May Help Your Child Avoid Myopia

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a refractive error that occurs when the eye lengthens from front to back. When this occurs, light rays are no longer focused directly on the retina, but appear slightly in front of it. As a result, close objects still look perfectly clear but far away objects are blurry.

Although myopia is often inherited, children who spend a great deal of time focusing on near objects may be more likely to develop the error. Kids who have myopia often squint when they read, can't see the blackboard or whiteboard at school clearly, have trouble seeing objects in the distance, develop frequent headaches or complain that their eyes hurt.

Eyeglasses and contact lenses can improve your child's eyesight, but it may be possible to prevent myopia from occurring simply by increasing the amount of time your child spends outdoors.

Research Studies Find a Link Between Myopia and Outdoor Play

Taiwanese schoolchildren who spent time outdoors during recess were less likely to develop myopia than those in a neighboring school who stayed indoors. Researchers also discovered that myopia did not progress as quickly in children who were already nearsighted if they played outdoors more often.

British researchers discovered that children who had myopia spent 3.7 fewer hours outside than children who had no vision problems or were farsighted. A similar study in Sydney, Australia followed more than 1,000 children aged 6 and 12 for two years. Not surprisingly, children who spent more time outdoors were less likely to have developed myopia by the end of the study. Those who spent more time on reading and other activities that required close vision and also spent more time indoors had a higher rate of nearsightedness.

Danish researchers measured eye length in another study that examined how the amount of daylight affected nearsighted children. The study, published in the May 2013 issue of Ophthalmology, noted that eye elongation and myopia progression were worse during the shorter winter days.

Children who took part in the studies didn't participate in any organized activities during the time they spent outside. Whether they simply sat on a swing, threw a ball or played tag, the benefits were the same. Researchers aren't quite sure why spending time outdoors reduces the incidence of myopia. They theorize that children may benefit by looking at objects in the distance while outdoors instead of focusing on near objects or that the effects of ultraviolet light may play a role.

Kids today are less likely to spend time outdoors due to elimination or reduction of outside recess in schools and the ready availability of video games, smartphones, tablets and other digital devices. Reminding them to put down their digital screens and enjoy the great outdoors may just lower the chance that they'll need glasses. If they're already nearsighted, their myopia may not progress quite as quickly if they spend a little time outside every day.

Has your child received a vision examination lately? Diagnosing and correcting nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and other refractive errors can help your son or daughter avoid eyestrain, headaches and other issues related to poor vision. Call us today to schedule your child's appointment.

Sources:

National Eye Institute: Facts About Myopia, 7/17/12

https://nei.nih.gov/health/errors/myopia

Ophthalmology: Effect of Day Length on Eye Growth, Myopia Progression, and Change of Corneal Power in Myopic Children, 5/13

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23380471

All About Vision: Myopia Causes – Is Your Child at Risk?

http://www.allaboutvision.com/parents/myopia-causes.htm

American Academy of Ophthalmology Journal: The Association Between Time Spent Outdoors and Myopia in Children and Adolescents, 7/17/12

http://www.aaojournal.org/article/S0161-6420(12)00363-6/abstract

Ophthalmology: Outdoor Activity Reduces the Prevalence of Myopia in Children, 8/08

http://primaryeyecare.net/wp-content/uploads/Myopia%20Control%20Studies/outdoor_activity_myopia_Rose.pdf

American Optometric Association: Myopia

https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/myopia

CONTACT US TODAY

We look forward to hearing from you

Locations

Find us on the map

Testimonials

Reviews By Our Satisfied Patients

  • "Dr. Leek is very experienced and has a great kind, personality. I highly recommend him. His massage therapists are also great."
    Patricia K. / Grass Valley, CA

Featured Articles

Read about interesting topics

  • Nystagmus

    Nystagmus is a vision condition characterized by repetitive, uncontrolled eye movements. These involuntary eye movements may be side-to-side, up and down, or in a circular pattern, which hinders the eyes’ ability to focus on a steady object. Individuals with nystagmus may hold their heads in unusual ...

    Read More
  • Macular Hole

    The condition known as a macular hole refers to a tiny break in the macula that results in blurry or distorted vision. To fully understand the condition, one must understand eye anatomy. The macula is a spot located in the center of the retina (the back portion of the eye). Located where light comes ...

    Read More
  • How It Helps

    The goal of vision therapy is to treat vision problems that cannot be fully addressed through eyeglasses, contact lenses or surgery. For example, studies show that vision therapy may be beneficial for addressing eyestrain and other issues that can affect a child’s reading abilities. The human brain ...

    Read More
  • How It Works

    Vision therapy, also referred to as vision training, neuro-vision therapy, or vision rehabilitation, is an optometry subspecialty. Vision therapy is prescribed to develop, improve and/or enhance visual function so an individual’s vision system functions more smoothly. Vision therapy can be beneficial ...

    Read More
  • Age-Related Macular Degeneration

    One of the leading causes of vision loss in people who are age 50 or older is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This common eye condition leads to damage of a small spot near the center of the retina called the macula. The macula provides us with the ability to clearly see objects that are straight ...

    Read More
  • Signs and Symptoms Checklist

    Vision therapy, which is also known as vision training or visual training, is an individualized treatment program that can help identify and correct perceptual-cognitive deficiencies that are impacting visual learning, focus, and concentration. Vision Therapy for Children: Checklist While individuals ...

    Read More
  • Pediatric Ophthlamology

    Ophthalmology addresses the physiology, anatomy and diseases of the eyes. Pediatric ophthalmology focuses on the eyes of children. Pediatric ophthalmologists examine children’s eyes to see if they need corrective lenses or other treatments to improve their vision. Training for Pediatric Ophthalmologists Pediatric ...

    Read More
  • Presbyopia

    Somewhere around the age of 40, most people’s eyes lose the ability to focus on close-up objects. This condition is called presbyopia. You may start holding reading material farther away, because it is blurry up close. Reading suddenly gives you eyestrain. You might wonder when manufacturers started ...

    Read More
  • Myopia

    Myopia, or nearsightedness, means that your eyes can see close objects clearly but struggle to see things in the distance. Nearly 30 percent of Americans are nearsighted. This condition usually develops in children and teenagers, up to about the age of 20. A teacher or parent might notice a child squinting ...

    Read More
  • Diabetic Eye Diseases

    Diabetes is a condition that involves high blood sugar (glucose) levels. This can affect many parts of the body, including the eyes. One of the most common diabetic eye diseases is diabetic retinopathy, which is also a leading cause of blindness in American adults. Diabetic Retinopathy Diabetic retinopathy ...

    Read More

Newsletter Sign Up