Could more time outside mean better eyesight for kids? Some recent studies say yes.
With summer on the horizon, kids are itching to get outside to explore and play. Recent research suggests not only will outdoor exercise help kid’s physical well-being, it may also be a key to their eye health—provided over-exposure to damaging UV rays is avoided.
According to this research, natural light could be essential for normal eye development in children. In fact, encouraging kids to spend additional time outside could be a simplistic—not to mention cost-effective—method of improving vision in addition to overall health. Growing evidence also suggests that time spent outside could lower the risk of developing nearsightedness in kids and adolescents—a relatively common condition that has increased dramatically within this age group since the 1970s. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that nearly 40 percent of a test group of six year olds who did not spend a significant amount of time outdoors (less than 40 minutes each day) developed nearsightedness later in life.
Decrease Of Myopia
The decrease in the overall risk of nearsightedness or myopia (the medical term for nearsightedness) found in this study is important because kids who develop nearsightedness at a younger age are much more likely to develop worse cases later in life. According to the research, this means that these kids present an increased risk of what medical professionals call “pathological myopia,” which is a severe vision impairment that often means incredibly high glasses and contact prescriptions, worsening eyesight throughout life and an increased need for eye care surgery.
How Does It Decrease Myopia?
But why—exactly—does time outside translate to better vision? Well, researchers are not entirely sure.
Even after these recent studies, it is not immediately evident why spending increased time outdoors benefits kid’s eyesight. However, some researchers guess that the increased levels of light intensity that kids experience while playing outside could be one explanation. Increased light stimulates the brain, and causes it to release the chemical dopamine—which is responsible for the feelings of happiness we experience. Dopamine is also released directly from the retina of the eye when this occurs. In additional to feelings of happiness and contentment, dopamine also helps to protect against the type of growth within the eye that causes nearsightedness.
Need more proof? A second study discovered that when school aged kids were required to spend at least 80 minutes of time outside each day, less of them eventually became nearsighted compared to kids who did not spend time outside.
Another Danish study discovered the rate of eye growth heavily depends on daylight exposure. Think of it this way: if the eye grows too long (when it is measured from back to front) the kid is considered nearsighted. The study found that while children’s eyes grew normally during summer, they grew too quickly during winter.
The solution for improved eye care? Get those kids outdoors! Just make certain they wear sunglasses and hats when playing in direct sunlight. The same goes for teens and young adults, as a bad sunburn isn’t beneficial to anyone.
As your children grow, it is important that you schedule a comprehensive eye exam regularly. This will keep their vision healthy and set the foundation for a lifetime of visual health. You will need a highly-qualified optometrist to routinely check their eyes to keep your eye health at its best. Please contact us to schedule an eye exam today in Chelsea, NYC. We are committed to providing each patient with quality vision solutions. Our staff holds firmly to the value of offering excellent service, care and products through friendly, positive and professional teamwork.