January 12, 2010

Keep kids' eyesight healthy with outdoor play!

Jeepers creepers, kids who play outside have healthier peepers!

...OK, I admit, that was bad.

But a recent study indicates it could be true! Scientists studying the causes of myopia (near-sightedness) are finding interesting correlations with time spent outdoors during childhood. 

"If you have two nearsighted parents and you engage in a low level of outdoor activity, your chances of becoming myopic by the eighth grade are about 60 percent," says Don Mutti, of the College of Optometry at the Ohio State University. "If children engaged in over 14 hours per week of outdoor activity, their chances of becoming nearsighted were now only about 20 percent. So it was quite a dramatic reduction in the risk of becoming myopic."

At first, the scientists thought the decreased risk was caused by less time doing "near work," like reading or watching television (activities typically enjoyed indoors). But further research found these activities weren't factors at all. Then they thought exercise might be the key, but they discovered that kids who exercised indoors didn't get the benefits of reduced myopia risk compared to kids who exercised outdoors.

Now, researchers are studying whether outdoor light somehow changes the way the eye grows.

"Light levels might have a beneficial effect on the eye," notes Mutti. "Light levels change certain aspects in retinal physiology."

Any way around it, here's another great reason for kids to spend lots of time playing outdoors!

Read the full article: Medical Detectives Focus On Myopia (NPR).

the buzz in play, health, kids