Health: Playing Outside Improves Children’s Eyesight

Do you stare at a screen for hours on end? On September 15, Prof. Ian Morgan from the Australian National University at Canberra published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirming that the risk of myopia can be reduced in children. Myopia, or “nearsightedness,” occurs when there is too long a distance between your cornea and retina, making objects far away appear blurry.

The researchers chose 1,903 students of about seven years of age from twelve schools in the Hong Kong region and divided them randomly into two groups. Children in the experimental group benefitted from forty minutes of outdoor play everyday afterschool and were encouraged to play outside during school vacations, while the control group made no changes to their routine. After three years of yearly eye examinations, 39.5 % of the control group presented signs of myopia while 30.4% of the experimental group presented signs of myopia. Playing outdoors was associated with a 23% decrease in risk of myopia in children. Neuropsychologist Sylvie Chokron questions the factors that lead to this conclusion, suggesting a future experiment: “[I]s it the addition of outdoor activities that reduces myopia, or the reduction of screen activity?”

Contributor: Cristina Herrera

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