“Go play outside!”
In this digital age, kids often want to play on their screens rather than kick a ball around outside. But as parents we know that getting outdoors is important during childhood for their physical health and development…. But did you know that it is also good for their eyes?
Rates of myopia (shortsightedness) are on the increase, with half the world predicted to be myopic by 2050. Myopia occurs when the eye grows too long, so that distance objects appear blurry. Researchers have been working hard to solve the puzzle of what causes shortsightedness for many years. We now know that genetics is a component (thanks Mum and Dad) but another key factor is our changing lifestyle. People now spend less time outdoors, more time doing close work, such as reading, more time in school, and there are more people than ever living in cities.
Studies have shown that children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to become myopic, and if they are already shortsighted it can slow the progression of their myopia. The research has found that it is not so much the physical activity that is beneficial, but rather the brightness of the light which protects the young eye from growing too quickly. When outdoors, the eye is also able to look far into the distance and the whole retina is stimulated in a more equivalent way, compared to when we are indoors and looking up close, where we tend to use our central vision much more so.
Whatever the mechanism, one thing is for sure – going outside is good for your child’s eyes! We recommend that children play outdoors for at least 90 minutes per day. Just remember to be sun safe and slip, slop, slap while outdoors.