a child kicking a soccer ball

Myopia has become increasingly common around the world. Is there a way to prevent nearsightedness? Go out and play.

Research Focuses on Nearsightedness:

Spending time outside reduces the likelihood that young people will become nearsighted and need glasses. New research published in JAMA Ophthalmology suggests that teenagers and young adults exposed to more ultraviolet B radiation from sunlight have a lower risk for myopia later in life.

Results from the European Eye Study:

This was a separate analysis of data from the European Eye Study. The participants were Europeans aged 65 and older. More than 4,000 of them showed up to have their vision measured to determine if they are myopic.

Increased exposure to ultraviolet B light between 14 and 39 years of age reduced the odds of nearsightedness substantially. Perhaps it’s time to encourage youngsters to spend more time outdoors instead of staring at computer screens, using smart phones and playing video games.

JAMA Ophthalmology, Dec. 2016

How to Protect Your Vision:

This is not the first we have heard of the benefits of time outside for children’s eyes. You may be interested in listening to our hour-long interview with ophthalmologist Peter McDonnell for more information. We discussed how to protect your vision.

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  1. Kathy L
    New Jersey

    I grew up on a farm and played outside practically everyday, and then became a letter carrier and walked everyday for hours out in the elements. I can honestly say that, with the exception of hypertension, I have no nearsightedness at 63 years of age.

  2. Kathy L
    New Jersey

    I think maybe everybody has the potential to avoid nearsightedness, but it’s not always possible.

  3. Kathy L.
    New Jersey

    I lived on a farm when I was little and played outside practically all day, and later I became a letter carrier who walked everyday on the job for hours, and at 63 I can honestly say, that with the exception of hypertension, I have excellent eye health and do not suffer from nearsightedness.

  4. F

    As an ophthalmologist, I have never seen a patient whose vision has improved with exercises. Fortunately, I have also never seen any damage from them either.

  5. Nanette
    Mesquite, Tx

    I grew up in the country in the 1940s and 1950s, and we played outside everyday. On rainy days we played games or did jigsaw puzzle indoors. There was no television in our house until 1955. We liked reading books so our mother took us to the Public Library once every two weeks.
    Our brother started wearing glasses when he was 12 or 13 (about 1950). My twin and I started wearing glasses with we were 14 (1954).
    Our cousins (similar in age) did not like to read and never wore glasses.

    I do not think that kids should be watching TV or playing Video games all the time and they need to play outside. But, as you can see from my earlier paragraphs, playing outdoors did not prevent us from having to wear glasses. It was only when we had cataract surgery (we are all in our 70s) that we were free of glasses or contact lenses.

  6. Mary

    Did not work for me either. Everybody in my family wears glasses.

  7. Mary Jane

    Only one of many reasons for all of us to spend more time outdoors.

  8. Max
    North Carolina

    I’d expect the eyes exercise of distance and proximity focus while outside may be a greater contributor to minimizing vision issues. I’d also expect UV exposure for extended time will cause loss of clarity over time. My personal observation of a contact lens in one eye unquestionably has better clarity in that eye which I believe is due to the lens blocking some UV.

  9. Terry
    Central Florida

    I love your column and I have used many of the things you recommend. Like soap for leg cramps, vicks for different things.

    However I have to comment on this article. I spent so much time outside as a kid playing any number of sports from kickball to basketball.
    We just didn’t stay indoors. This particular article, I just can’t agree with, it didn’t work for me!

  10. Judy

    Follow up to previous comment: First, damn that auto correct. Second, In my 50s I decided to do eye exercises to see if I could improve my vision. Every night for several months I took a few minutes off from reading and focused in and out both within the room, about 15 feet, and with my book, moving it in and out.

    And I moved my eyes slowly around, focusing on everything around the room. My glass became uncomfortable and when I had my eyes checked my nearsightedness had improved dramatically and I no longer needed reading glasses. These improvements have continued until now, at age 73. So between my daughter’s experience and mine, I am totally convinced that much of nearsightedness and even presbyopia is a result of how you use your eyes.

  11. Judy

    When my daughter was six, she was having trouble with reading, but I knew she could; she just could read only a few words before she became unable to. I found a functional optometrist who said her eyes didn’t work together and she could only hold the focus for a few seconds. He gave her vision therapy for a year and a half and since then her reading and her vision in general have been excellent. Her problem turned out to be common in my husband’s family.

    He always emphasized looking up frequently while reading and focusing on something in the distance so her eye muscles wouldn’t get locked into near focus. He said that is why so many kids get nearsighted around fourth grade. When she showed a little nearsightedness a few years later he gave her a short course of vision therapy and emphasized looking in the distance, and she’s never had any more problems.

    She did spend more time outside than average because we home schooled, but it was clear that it was the emphasis on focusing on distant objects that kept her from being nearsighted. From what you reported It doesn’t seem that the study controlled for this factor. Of course there are many reasons for kids to play outside, but the fact that being outside makes them focus at at greater distance is surely one of them. I think it’s important to isolate this factor because you know there are parents who will buy an ultraviolet light to shine on their kids while they study and play their computer games.

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