We talk a lot of this blog about the benefits of children being outside and exploring nature. We cite research that shows how it helps cognitive development and increases awareness of our natural world.
Now, you can add one more reason to the list. Australian researchers have found that children who spend the most time outdoors are the ones least likely to be nearsighted.
Myopia (nearsightedness or shortsightedness) has become far more common in recent years and experts suggest as many as 80 percent of people in highly-educated groups are sufferers.
This is a statistic that I have heard for years and I have always attributed my own nearsightedness to those many hours spent reading a book under the covers by flashlight. As a dedicated bookworm, I’ve always considered it a badge of honor.
As my son shows a tendency to follow in my bookworm tendency, I all of a sudden find myself worried that he will “ruin his eyes” reading so much. And in the 21st century it’s not just reading. It’s computer work and TV and all of those various activities that require you to stare at something for a long time (“Don’t sit so close to that TV – it will ruin your eyes”).
It turns out that there does appear to be a connection.
It was found that children who spent less than 1.6 hours outdoors every day and more than 3.1 hours in near-work activity had double to triple the likelihood of being nearsighted, compared to children who spent the most time outside and the least time in close-up work.
What’s interesting though is that it’s not merely the act of spending less time in close up work that leads to better eyesight. Spending time outdoors appears to actually prevent the eyeball from growing which contributes to myopia. Scientists theorize that “the high levels of light outside…. allow retinal dopamine to be released in response to the light, and dopamine is known to be able to block eye growth.”
So, I wonder. Should we just take our books outside to read?
Photo Credit: AJ at Flickr Under Creative Commons License