Research finds healthy vision lies in great outdoors

Outside benefits: Researchers have found that play time outside is beneficial for children’s health – including their eyesight.How often do your children play outside?
Nanjing Night Net

I would not be surprised if you said it was not very often given the heat wave we are having and the well-known effects of too much sun.

However it is important that children have time outside each day.

There are lots of benefits of all kinds to be gained from spending time outside regularly.

Research shows that children who engage in outdoor play are healthier, and the opportunities for large body movements offered outside (running, jumping, playing on the trampoline etc) contribute to better body shape and body image, and help improve children’s sleep.

Outdoor play also offers opportunities for children to connect with nature and there is a lot of evidence now to show that connection with nature helps improve children’s health and wellbeing.

A recent study from the Queensland University of Technology introduced me to a new (to me) idea about the importance of outdoor play.

The studyshowed that twohours a day spent outside helps protect children’s eyes and helps prevent short-sightedness (myopia).

Myopia is the name for the condition where the lens in the eye does not focus the image onto the retina, rather it focuses the image in front of the retina. That means when looking at something in the distance, the image is blurry.

Children with myopia struggle to read what is written on the blackboard at school, and may not be able to read signs or recognise people when they are far enough away from them (I’ve spent my whole life worrying that people might think I am rude because I fail to recognise them when passing in the street!)

It has been predicted that within the next 30 years, nearly half of all the world’s population will have myopia.

Those of us who live in relatively affluent nations like Australia manage our myopia with glasses and/or contact lenses, although many parents struggle to cover the costs of providing these for their children, particularly when the glasses are lost or broken regularly.

However, there are many peoplein the world who do not have the financial resources to provide visual aids for their condition, and this can make a huge difference to children in school and in their lives outside of school.

The researchers from the Queensland University of Technology said their results showed that even for children who already have myopia, spending time outside every day can help slow the deterioration of their sight.

These QUT researchers are not alone in their conclusion – a large study from China has also indicated that increased myopia was associated with longer times spent indoors.

Clearly, we need to carefully create opportunities for children to play outside, juggling sun safe requirements with the need to expose children’s eyes not only to outdoor light but to the wide vistas the outdoor environment provides to stimulate our vision.

As long as our summer continues as it is, that juggle is going to be difficult but it is very important that we keep up our juggling act.

Margaret Sims is a Professor of Early Childhood at the University of New England in Armidale.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.