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Kids See the Light: Outdoor-Dwelling Kids Have Better Eyesight, Study Finds

Sunlight For parents wanting to avoid spending hundreds of dollars on their kids eyes, lend me your eyes for a moment. According to new research, one of the easiest ways to keep them from having four eyes (i.e. glasses) is to keep them outside! 

We know that keeping kids’ active and healthy means they need to spend more time outdoors playing and running around like we used to do at their age. But eye health is another important reason for keeping them out of the house (to say nothing of your own sanity).

Remember how after spending an hour or two outside on a sunny day you would go inside where it was darker and everything was sort of blurry?  This was due to the eyes’ rods and cones adjusting to the sudden differences in light.  Researchers believe it is the eyes exposure to the light from the sun that releases retinal dopamine, which blocks the eyes from growing.  The growth of the eyes causes them to experience short-sightedness, or myopia, which leads to a lifetime of one of two things:  (1) glasses or (2) squinting (pick your poison).  Not that there’s anything wrong with glasses, but I think most people would rather be glasses-free than having to wear them 24/7 to be able to see clearly.

Here’s how the researchers came to their conclusions regarding sunlight and kids’ eye health.  First off, they targeted their research to certain segments of children, namely 12-year-olds and 6-year-olds (approximately 13 percent and 1 percent of whom were myopic, respectively).  While they didn’t find sunlight played much of an impact on eye health in 6-year-olds – likely because their eyes are still in the growth stage – they found that sunlight impacted 12-year-olds’ eyesight in preventing myopia.

When researchers figured out how much time each respective 12-year-old spent outside, they found some interesting correlations, revolving around how much time they spent outside on average.  For instance, among those children that spent approximately three hours of their day outside, they were much less likely to have problems with myopia.  Among those with myopia, however, they were typically those who spent an average of 1 ½ hours outside each day.  What’s more, when close-up tasks were taken into account – i.e. those activities that require the eyes to be close to that which is being done, like reading, using the computer, watching the television at close range or playing video games – they were three times more likely than those children who spent more time outdoors and did comparatively little close-up activity.  The association between myopia and close-up activity was among those who spent an average of three hours per day doing shortsighted activities. 

The research has since been published in the journal Ophthalmology and was conducted by researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia (an institution that ranks in as among the top 25 biomedical universities in the world, according to Britain’s Higher Education Supplement).

Now, will outdoor activity save your young ones’ eyes for the rest of their lives?  Probably not.  After all, nearly half of all Americans today have some kind of eye problem, the most prevalent ones being myopia or astigmatism.  But preserving their eyesight for as long as possible should be a priority for all parents.  It starts by making sure their eating healthy (see past article on eye health, titled “Bright ‘Eye-dea”) and enjoying the outdoors.

Related Posts

  1. Moms that Eat Fish Low in Mercury Produce Smart Kids, Study Finds
  2. Artificial Food Additives Increase Hyperactivity Risk in Children, Study Finds
  3. Tanning Has Actually Been Found to Prevent Skin Tumors, Study Finds
  4. Breastfeeding Gives Children Better Vision Than “Bottle-Fed” Babies, Study Finds
  5. Zinc Supplementation Reduces Death Risk in Children, Study Finds
  


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