Myopia Prevention Study
A question the we understandably answer almost every day, sometimes multiple times a day, is what can I do as a parent to prevent my child from becoming more and more nearsighted? (Nearsighted means that a person can see well up close, but experiences blurred distance vision without glasses or contact lenses.) Some parents have worn glasses since they were young and want to know if they can prevent the same fate for their kids. And some parents whose children are already in glasses want to know if they can do anything to slow the progression of myopia (nearsightedness). While there is still no clear-cut answer to either of these questions, some evidence did come out recently that shed a bit more light on the questions at hand.
A recent finding by the American Academy of Ophthalmology found that children that spend more time outdoors are less likely to develop myopia. Specifically this finding, which was based on 8 different studies that included over 10,000 children, found that for every extra hour of outdoor activity per week, the likelihood of developing myopia decreased by 2%. Furthermore, it determined that nearsighted children spent 3.7 fewer hours per week outdoors than farsighted children (children that do not need glasses or contact lenses to see clearly in the distance). The link between outdoor play and myopia prevention is not quite clear, but logically it seems that if the eyes (and the brain) recognize that seeing distance objects (birds, trees, baseballs, bike jumps, etc.) is just as important as seeing near objects (books, computers, cell phones, etc.), than they will recognize the need for a proper balance between distance and near vision.
Now realistically speaking, genetics still play a significant role in myopia development. If both parents are nearsighted, there is a strong chance that their child will be nearsighted as well, even if they spend every waking minute playing outdoors. And if a child loves to read, the intellectual stimulation and knowledge they acquire while reading are probably positives that outweigh the negatives risks associated with myopia development. So ultimately a logical balance of outdoor and indoor activities is probably the best thing for children. If a child loves to play outside, they'll likely be fit and healthy and less likely to develop myopia. And if a child loves to read, that obviously should not be discouraged, but an hour or two of outdoor play every day would likely help that child to stay fit and healthy and less likely to develop myopia. When it comes to the debate between the benefits of outdoor play versus reading and studying, one could find a number of positives associated with either of those activities. But I'm sure that most parents would agree that when it comes to the benefits of outdoor play versus indoor video games, outdoor play has many more checks in the "positives" column.