Why Your Kids Might Be Able To See Better If They Play Outdoors More Often


Published:

© Robert Collins, Unsplash

The ready availability of technology may make the children of today faster at configuring a new smartphone, but does all of that screen time affect the development of their eyes?

While conventional wisdom dictates that children should do less up-close viewing, sit farther from the television and perhaps even wear their eyeglasses less, we have found in recent studies that another factor may be at play: Kids need to go outside, and, if not play, at least get some general exposure to outdoor light.

To our surprise, more time outdoors had a protective effect and reduced the chances that a child would go on to need myopic refractive correction in the future. The size of the effect was impressive.

What Causes Nearsightedness?

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a condition in which you can’t see far away but can see up close – without glasses or contact lenses. It typically starts during the early elementary school years. Because kids don’t know how other kids see, they often think their blurry vision is normal, so regular eye examinations are important during childhood.

With myopia, the eye is growing, but growing too long for distant rays of light to focus accurately on the back of the eye. A blurry image results.

National Eye Institute/National Institutes of Health, CC BY-NCFor children, eyeglasses or contact lenses move the focus back to the retina, and a clear image is formed. The too-long eye measured from front to back cannot be “shrunk,” so refractive correction is then a lifelong necessity. In adulthood, surgery is an option.

But kids don’t always like wearing glasses, sometimes with good reason. It is harder to play sports in them. Swimming is nearly impossible, and kids tend to lose or break them.

Myopia On The Rise

A worldwide epidemic of nearsightedness has been reported, associated with a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Besides creating the need to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses or to seek a surgical remedy, myopia can result in blinding eye diseases late in life, like retinal detachment or degeneration.

Risk factors include having myopic parents. A debate about the influence of reading and other close work has flourished for more than a century.

The bad actor in the environment was always assumed to be near work, such as reading, sewing and now computer, video game and smartphone usage. That theory makes so much intuitive sense. The eye in childhood is naturally growing longer, even in normally sighted children. In a child developing myopia, the eye grows to focus on the frequently observed, near-viewing field.

No less than Johannes Kepler, the astronomer and inventor who refined glass lenses for eyeglasses, was convinced that his poring over astronomical charts and calculations in the late 1500s was responsible for his nearsightedness. Kepler had it right when it came to the orbit of planets, but he was wrong about how the environment influences prescriptions for eyeglasses. The latest evidence says that near-work is not to blame for nearsightedness.

We studied this question for over 20 years in 4,979 children as part of the Collaborative Longitudinal Evaluation of Ethnicity and Refractive Error (CLEERE) Study, funded by the National Eye Institute, in order to put near-work, computer use and watching television in their proper place – essential for study and recreation but not an important factor in whether a child will need glasses.

Impressive Differences For Prevention

If a child has two nearsighted parents, the hereditary genetic effects increase the child’s chances of needing glasses to about 60 percent, if time spent outdoors is low.

More time outdoors, about 14 hours per week, can nearly neutralize that genetic risk, lowering the chances of needing glasses to about 20 percent, the same chance as a child with no nearsighted parents claims.

A recent survey of papers from around the world, including Australia, England and Singapore, in the last decade align almost perfectly with what we published in 2007 from the Orinda Longitudinal Study of Myopia.

Parents may ask: What about children who already wear glasses? Does more time outside help already nearsighted children?

Unfortunately, we and others have found that time outdoors has little to no effect on how prescriptions change over time in children who are already nearsighted, although more study of this is ongoing.

Enlightening Theories

So what’s so good about being outdoors for a child without glasses? There are several theories.

One is that children may exercise more when they are out of doors and that exercise is somehow protective. Another is that more ultraviolet B radiation from the sun makes for more circulating vitamin D, which somehow prevents abnormal childhood eye growth and myopia onset. Yet another is that light itself slows abnormal myopic eye growth and that outdoors, light is simply brighter.

The dominant theory is that the brighter light outside stimulates a release of dopamine from specialized cells in the retina. Dopamine then initiates a molecular signaling cascade that ends with slower, normal growth of the eye, which means no myopia.

Evidence from our work and from animal models of myopia indicate it’s the actual light exposure, not just a decrease in the time spent reading because children are outdoors, that may work the magic.

There’s clearly much more to learn, but before you send your children out to run around the block, remind them to put on sunscreen and to wear sunglasses. Even as time outdoors might prevent the development of nearsightedness, parents will want to ensure they aren’t creating other skin and eye problems from ultraviolet light exposure.

Dr. Mutti is the E.F. Wildermuth Foundation Professor in Optometry at The Ohio State University College of Optometry. He is a co-investigator with Dr. Karla Zadnik on the Collaborative Longitudinal Evaluation of Ethnicity and Refractive Error (CLEERE) Study, a National Eye Institute funded study of normal eye growth and risk factors for myopic refractive error now in its twentieth year. Karla Zadnik is the Glenn A. Fry Professor of Optometry and Physiological Optics and Dean at The Ohio State University College of Optometry.

This article was republished from The Conversation.

See also:
How To Raise An Environmentalist
Letting Kids Stand More In The Classroom Could Help Them Learn

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

December 11, 2017

The Moon is in Libra, where she highlights the need and benefits of good working relationships. It’s an appropriate day to go over the ground rules of cooperative partnerships. Address inconsistencies or dynamics that seem unfair but remember…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

December 2017

Free admission, 10%-20% discounts! Quality crystals, minerals and jewelry! We have an amazing display of merchandise for your viewing pleasure and purchase. We constantly add new items to our...

Where:
Cape Cod Center for Whole Health
116 State Road
Sagamore Beach, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Down to Earth Crystals and Minerals
Telephone: 508-680-6195
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Daoist Benevolent Association offers free classes on traditional Wudang style tai chi. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Brown School
42 Milk St Newburyport
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Benevolent Association
Telephone: 978-462-4617
Contact Name: Barbara
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join Diane Lewis, psychic medium, for this very special holiday presentation. Be a part of this exciting evening as Diane connects to spirit, bridging the gap and gently bringing forth messages...

Cost: $40 per person

Where:
Hillcrest Country Club
325 Pleasant Street
Leicester, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Hillcrest Country Club
Telephone: 617-645-6415
Contact Name: Diane Lewis
Website »

More information

The Daoist Benevolent Association offers free classes on traditional Wudang style tai chi. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Brown School
42 Milk St Newburyport
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Benevolent Association
Telephone: 978-462-4617
Contact Name: Barbara
Website »

More information

Daoist Priest Zhou Xuanyun teaches traditional Wudang style kung fu.

Cost: $110/month

Where:
Boston Ultimate Fitness
72 Beach Street (4th Floor)
Boston, MA  02111
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Gate Wudang Arts
Telephone: 508-245-8305
Contact Name: Zhou Xuanyun
Website »

More information

Beginning, Tuesday, November 7th, 2017 Clarity. Knowledge. Personal transformation. No matter what you’re looking to find more of, Kabbalah 1 is the first step in your lifelong journey of...

Cost: 8 Weeks, $49.95

Where:
WeWork
31 St. James Ave
Boston, MA  02116
View map »


Sponsor: Kabbalah Center
Telephone: 1.800.522.2252
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Do you find it a challenge to quiet your mind? In Raja Yoga the mind is described as the generator of thought that resides within the soul. It is the one thing we can control in life. We simply...

Cost: Free

Where:
Inner Space Meditation Center & Gallery
1110 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA  02138
View map »


Telephone: 617-547-1110
Website »

More information

Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the holiday season drain you! Come join us for a holiday healing meditation and Reiki session with Judy and Geri. This session will start off with...

Cost: $25

Where:
Holistic Wellness Center
18 North Meadows Road, Unit 12B
Medfield, MA   02052
View map »


Telephone: 508-359-7400
Website »

More information

Please join us at our monthly meetings, second Wednesday each month in Northboro, MA. Stay inspired and create collaborative professional relationships. A welcoming community working for the...

Where:
First Parish Unitarian Church Hall
40 Church Street
Northborough, MA  01532
View map »

More information

Weekly yoga classes with Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN of Harmony Way on Wednesdays at 12:15 PM and Fridays at 9:30 AM at the Wilbraham Senior Center. Class welcomes all ages and uses a...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Come join Mary Budrose on October 17, November 14, December 14, from 7-8pm to learn more about the The Budrose Center For Spiritual Growth healing program and experience a chakra balancing...

Where:
Budrose Center for Spiritual Growth (Blossom Healings)
54 Main Street
Topsfield, MA  01983
View map »


Telephone: 978-561-1687
Contact Name: Mary Budrose
Website »

More information

Join us in the Northeast Reiki Center classroom in Framingham for a Reiki Circle in the Usui Reiki System of Natural Healing. We are a gathering of Reiki practitioners and others interested in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Weekly yoga classes with Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN of Harmony Way on Wednesdays at 12:15 PM and Fridays at 9:30 AM at the Wilbraham Senior Center. Class welcomes all ages and uses a...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN
Website »

More information

Daoist Priest Zhou Xuanyun teaches traditional Wudang style kung fu.

Cost: $110/month

Where:
Boston Ultimate Fitness
72 Beach Street (4th Floor)
Boston, MA  02111
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Gate Wudang Arts
Telephone: 508-245-8305
Contact Name: Zhou Xuanyun
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Learn Reiki — revitalizing self-care and healing in the palm of your hands. Facilitated by Lou Orsan, Reiki Shihan (master teacher) This one-day class covers the basic principles of...

Cost: $125

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

2 Saturday 10:30AM classes to practice IPT Yoga at Sohum in Westborough, MA Want to practice yoga to relieve pain on the bottom of the foot? Integrated Positional Technique (IPT) for...

Cost: $30 per class prereg; $55 for both; $35 each at the door

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street
Suite 108b (next to hair salon)
Westborough, MA, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: PatLebauYoga
Telephone: 508-393-5581
Contact Name: Pat Lebau
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags