How Schools Can Help Reduce Nearsightedness In Children
By Kirsten Cowart
According to a new study of primary school age children in China, spending 45 minutes extra outside each day may reduce the risk of myopia, also known as nearsightedness.
According to the authors, 90% of high school graduates in China have nearsightedness. Though the rates are less in the Middle East and in Europe, they are on the rise. The results suggest that the rest of the world can take steps to help protect children’s vision by giving them a healthy dose of the outdoors.
“There were some studies suggesting the protective effect of outdoor time in the development of myopia, but most of this evidence is from cross-sectional studies (survey) data that suggest ‘association’ instead of causality,” said the lead author, Dr. Mingguang He from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou. “Our study, as a randomized trial, is able to prove causality and also provide the high level of evidence to inform public policy.”
He also told the news that the intense levels of schooling and the tendency for little time to be spent outdoors may be contributing to the rise of nearsightedness in China.
In the U.S., many schools are cutting time from recess and physical education in order to focus more of math and science for standardized testing scores. These types of changes may start to show in the next few years as more and more children need glasses.
How The Study Worked
The scientists took 12 primary schools and divided them up into 2 groups. There was a total of nearly 2,000 first-grade students around 7 years old in the study.
6 schools continued with their normal class schedule and the other 6 added an additional 40 minutes of outdoor activity at the end of each school day. The parents of this second group were also encouraged to engage in outdoor activities with their children on the weekends as well.
The Reduction Of Nearsightedness
3 years later, the researchers found that 30% of the children who were involved in extra outdoor activities developed nearsightedness. The children who didn’t have the extra outdoor time ended up with a 40% chance of being diagnosed with nearsightedness.
This means that the children who spent time outside were found to be 23% less likely to develop nearsightedness issues.
Authors are unsure why it works, but they can see that it clearly does.
The study didn’t investigate how spending additional time outdoors would help protect the children’s eyesight, but they theorize that the brighter light of the sun may aid in the growth of the eye, which would inhibit myopia.
All Schools Should Make The Shift
“One issue that needs to be addressed is the potential skin and eye damage from UV exposures, but these can be managed by standard UV protection measures,” Dr. Mingguang He said.
“Future studies should include information about the content of the additional outdoor activity, if the activity could be standardized and how it differs from other studies,” Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Dr. Michael X. Repka writes.
“Establishing the long-term effect of additional outdoor activities on the development and progression of myopia is particularly important, because the intervention is essentially free and may have other health benefits,” He also stated that they need to do more studies to determine if the results are permanent or temporary. It is possible that regular lifelong outdoor activity is required in order to keep the eyes healthy.
Perhaps then we will be able to narrow down what specific activities can lower the percentage of nearsightedness even more. Also, spending more time being active outside should have other important health benefits for our children such as a decrease in the risk of childhood obesity, diabetes, and other illnesses.
Do you and your children spend a good amount of time outside? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.
Kirsten Cowart is a writer and researcher that has worked in the spiritual, mental health and medical fields.Kirsten enjoys studying and experiencing the benefits of yoga, meditation, nutrition, herbalism, organic gardening and alternative health.She worked hard in 2014 losing over 40 lbs. and has since maintained a healthy lifestyle.Follow her to learn more about her journey on Twitter, Facebook & Youtube!
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