From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published August 3, 2012 09:08 AM

Kick Your Kids Out(side) for Their Own Good

With all the advances in electronics and social media, it is no wonder that children are opting to stay in the comfort of the indoors rather than pursuing outdoor activities. It is at times like these that parents need to be extra vigilant in forcing their kids out of the house and play around like a kid. A new study from the University of Bristol has given another valid reason for keeping children outside. According to their research, children who spend more time outside are less likely to develop myopia (near-sightedness) than children who prefer the indoors and staring at a lit-up screen.

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Myopia is one of the most prevalent conditions on the plant, affecting between 25 and 50 percent of young people in the West and up to 80 percent of young people in parts of south-east Asia. Around the world, more than a third of all adults are myopic, requiring glasses in order to see distant objects clearly. This percentage has doubled over the last thirty years, for reasons one can speculate upon.

Previous research conducted in Australia and the United States have found the link between children outdoor activity and a decreased risk of developing myopia. However, it was unclear whether this was due to more physical activity or just being outside.

The Bristol University researchers, led by Dr Cathy Williams (Bristol) and Dr. Jez Guggenheim (Cardiff), set off to answer this question. They observed over 7,000 boys and girls of varying ages, comparing the prevalence of myopia with the amount of time spent outside at age 9 and their amount of physical activity at age 11.

They found that kids who were outdoors more often at ages 8 and 9 were half as likely to become near-sighted by age 15. It is believed that the reason myopia is so high among south-east Asian children is because they spend much more time inside.

"We're still not sure why being outdoors is good for children's eyes, but given the other health benefits that we know about we would encourage children to spend plenty of time outside, although of course parents will still need to follow advice regarding UV exposure," said Dr. Williams. "There is now a need to carry out further studies investigating how much time outside is needed to protect against short-sightedness, what age the protective effect of spending time outside is most marked and how the protective effect actually works, so that we can try and reduce the number of children who become short-sighted."

One can speculate that the reason myopia is decreased by being outside is because the eyes get more exercise. They are constantly moving around and adjusting their focus. The eyes also get more practice in viewing objects at greater distance. When indoors, the eyes cannot focus on anything further than the wall in front of them.

This study has been published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science

Children Playing Outside image via Shutterstock

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