Outdoor Activity Reduces Short-Sightedness in Children

“Half the world’s population will be near sighted by the year 2050!” Now that’s alarming, isn’t it? What is causing more and more of our children to be myopic or short sighted? And more importantly, what can we do to reduce short-sightedness in children? Scientists have found an easy solution – outdoor activity reduces short-sightedness in children.

Are Mobile Phones causing short-sightedness in children?

We know that genes are a factor that cause short-sightedness in children. But this accounts for a small fraction of cases, instigating scientists to look at environmental factors that seem to be pushing this drastic increase. As kids are spending more hours staring at their screens, they are spending lesser and lesser time outdoors. While the screen itself may not damage your kids’ eyes, lack of adequate outdoor light definitely does play a role.

The Studies

A study conducted by Queensland University of Technology monitored 101 children, of whom 41 had near-sightedness. The rest had normal vision. They recorded light exposure through wristwatch light sensors and also studied their eye growth.

When your kid’s eyeballs become too long, images get focused short of the retina, instead of on the retina – the curtain at the back of the eye. This causes near-sightedness or myopia. The researchers found that kids who had the least exposure to outdoor light had faster eye growth and thus faster progression of near sightedness.

Another review by the Shanghai Eye Disease Prevention & Treatment Centre found that an extra 1.25 hours / day spent outdoors reduced the risk of short sightedness by 50%.

How does Outdoor activity reduce Short-Sightedness in children?

Opinions vary among scientists on how outdoor activity plays a role. Some scientists believe that rather than playing sports, it is the actual exposure to daylight that is of significance. Outdoor light is said to stimulate the production of retinal dopamine, a naturally occurring chemical that slows eye growth. Another aspect is that kids are constantly exercising their distant vision when they play outdoors. Some others have estimated that it has to do with exposure to UVB rays or Vitamin D production.

What does this mean for your child?

All children must spend one hour and preferably two hours in the outdoors every day. If your child does not have glasses yet, it will help prevent developing short-sightedness. If your child already has glasses, outdoor time may help prevent a rapid progress in his/her spectacle powers.

However one must remember that kids still need protection from harmful UV radiation by use of hats and sunglasses. Even if your child wears sunglasses, the exposure to bright light is still more as compared to staying indoors. Is your child getting his one hour of outdoor play?

Dr. Prachi Agashe is a Pediatric Ophthalmologist in Mumbai with years of experience with dealing with short-sightedness in children. If you would like to consult Dr. Prachi Agashe for your child’s eye problems, do feel free to get in touch with her via email at contactus@agashehospital.com. Dr. Prachi Agashe can also be reached via facebook at www.facebook.com/agashehospital or via phone at 022 42 43 5000 or in person at Agashe Paediatric SuperSpeciality Care, Kurla, Mumbai.