Study Suggests More Time Outside May Improve Kids' Eyesight

More time outdoors may reduce the odds your young child will need eyeglasses, new research from China suggests.

kids playing outside making funny faces
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The future seems bright and it's only getting better, suggests new research from China that found more time outside may improve eyesight in children. In the study, which was published this week in the journal JAMA, bout 950 kids around age 7 were provided an extra 40 minutes each day to enjoy recess outside. The kids' parents were encouraged to join in, by extending their children's outdoor play time on weekends and after school, too. After three months, researchers found that bumping up outdoor activities for this amount of time lowered the odds of nearsightedness (also called myopia) among the school-aged children. While 40 percent of the children were nearsighted at the beginning of the study, that number dropped to 30.4 percent for the kids who had more outdoor time.

Dr. Michael Repka, a professor of ophthalmology and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, wrote an editorial in JAMA to accompany the study. In it, Dr. Repka avises parents that adding daylight to the family schedule with the intent to prevent myopia would likely not harm their children in any way, but the effect will probably be small.

Dr. Mingguang He of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou said the end result was less than anticipated, but still clinically important for young children who develop myopia early in life because they are the ones most likely to progress with the eye condition.

And, honestly, what's not to love about a little more play time and fresh air? "Given the popular appeal of increased outdoor activities to improve the health of school-aged children in general," Dr. Repka wrote, "the potential benefit of slowing myopia development and progression by those same activities is difficult to ignore."

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