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

May 22, 2019

Mars’ late morning sextile to Uranus sets the day off with grand ambitions and a willingness to take risks. Technology and visionary thinking prove to be complimentary disciplines. It’s a great time to improve your computer skills or invest in a new…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

May 2019

With Lisa Rockenmacher The Bhagavad Gita is one of the oldest and most well-known texts regarding the path of yoga. It contains wisdom and guidance that offers insight to all seekers from all...

Cost: $160 ($144 when you register by April 14 )

Where:
Yogalife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Telephone: 603-867-3969
Contact Name: Alice Bentley
Website »

More information

A talk by Roger Lipsey, author of a new biography Gurdjieff Reconsidered: The Life, the Teaching, the Legacy. Joined by special guest Cynthia Bourgeault, author of the foreword. “All is...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cambridge Public Library, Main Lecture Hall
449 Broadway
Cambridge, MA
View map »


Sponsor: The Gurdjieff Society of Massachusetts
Website »

More information

Sunday Reiki treatments with Reiki master and practitioner Linda Simons in Brookline, MA. Start your week off on a more balanced note with a Reiki treatment on a Sunday afternoon. Please join me...

Cost: Sliding Scale $25-45

Where:
233 Harvard Street
Suite 36
Brookline, MA  02446
View map »


Telephone: 617-304-2205
Contact Name: Linda Simons
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Initiating Inspiration Book Club will be discussing the book Before Happiness by Shawn Anchor. Copies of the book can be checked out at the Circulation Desk of the Waltham Public...

Cost: Free

Where:
Waltham Public Library
735 Main Street
Waltham, MA  02451
View map »


Sponsor: Waltham Public Library
Telephone: 617-710-6145
Contact Name: Louise Goldstein
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join us for this light and fun evening. As part of intuitive development we will be working with auras, chakras and energy tonight. $15 pay at registration, $20 at the door. Aura Bob will be...

Cost: $15 pay at registration, $20 at the door.

Where:
The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles Rd
Suite #A
Salem, NH  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey Smith
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Anxiety can feel painful and debilitating, causing feelings of isolation, fear, an inability to concentrate, and low self-esteem. Over 40 million adults are affected by anxiety in the U.S. making...

Cost: $35

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Contact Name: Alice Bentley
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Being in a long term committed partnership allows us to experience sharing our lives with another soul. Often we begin a committed partnership with an experience of being our best selves with...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Heart's Journey
196 Pleasant Street
Suite 302
Northampton, MA  01060
View map »


Sponsor: The Heart's Journey
Telephone: 413-687-9951
Contact Name: Abriete Medore
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

May 24–26 Designed to prepare individuals who are interested in helping themselves and others in a rewarding career as a professional certified hypnotist/hypnotherapist. Live...

Cost: $1995 ppd. (Early Bird by 5/15 - $1795)

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Saturday Workshop The Yamas and niyamas and why they matter today. Format includes yoga poses as well as meditation. All welcome. A one-day workshop. Pre-register by 5/23: 508-829-6300...

Cost: $35

Where:
Worcester Yoga Center
21 West Street
Worcester, MA  01609
View map »


Sponsor: Ann Bissanti, CYT
Telephone: 508-829-6300
Website »

More information

May 25–26 Join other like-minded seekers as we take a journey through the concepts of the new Earth paradigm, higher self and soul sovereignty, ascension mechanics, and spiritual alchemy.

Where:
North Andover, MA


Telephone: (617) 366-6042
Website »

More information

May 4–June 8, 2019 Saturdays 10am–11:30am Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan) is a healing martial art using breath and movement. It is just one way to stay young and healthy. It...

Cost: $120

Where:
Metta Wellness
679 Pleasant Street
Paxton, MA  01612
View map »


Sponsor: Metta Wellness
Telephone: 774-245-5487
Contact Name: Rick Rocha
Website »

More information

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