South Carolina Ophthalmologists on Vision: Outdoor Activity Leads to Better Vision in Children

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Vision: Outdoor Activity Leads to Better Vision in Children




Welcome to this month’s For Your Child newsletter.  Our topic:  Better vision in children linked to the outdoors.  Based on a report published in the medical journal Optometry & Vision Science, kids who spend more time outside and away from the television set are less likely to develop myopia.  Myopia is the inability to see things clearly at a distance.  However, the new report doesn’t indicate whether or not too much indoor activity actually causes myopia, a condition also called nearsightedness.  


At this point, researches haven’t pinpointed what the exact reason might be.  Still, expert Dr. Howard Howland says that it would seem prudent to encourage outdoor activities, not necessarily sports, for all growing children and young adults in order to reduce the progression of myopia.  About a third of Americans suffer from myopia, says study author Dr. Jane Gwiazda.  She says the condition seems to be caused by both genetics and the environment, and it appears to be more common in people who engage in a lot of nearwork due to their jobs.


The study provided questionnaires for the parents of almost 200 children whose average age was 13 years.  The questionnaires ask about the children’s time spent using the computer, reading for pleasure, and watching TV.  An annual eye exam was performed on the children during the study.  The results of the study revealed that the children who spent less time outdoors, an average of eight hours a week, developed myopia.  This is compared to the nearly 13 hours of outdoor activity engaged in by other children. 


Additionally, those with myopia, also watched 12 hours a week more television, compared to eight hours in the other group.  Dr. Gwiazda says one possible explanation for these results is that, when outdoors, objects are viewed at a distance rather then up close.  This may produce a stop signal to block myopia progression. 


Outdoor exposure may also be beneficial because sunlight causes the pupil to constrict.  This results in a larger depth of focus, the range in which objects appear clear, and less image blur that’s associated with myopia.  Dr. Howland agrees that looking at things farther away may be another benefit of outdoor activities.  In popular culture, bookworms and nerds are often depicted as wearing glasses.  Some studies have shown a connection between heavy reading and myopia, Dr. Gwiazda says.  Children with more hours of outdoor activity don’t necessarily spend less time reading and using computers, explains Dr. Gwiazda.  However, the new research has yet to confirm a conclusive link.


For more information, always consult your child’s doctor.  Thank you for listening.  Please visit our website for information on health and wellness topics.

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