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Outside Play Time May Reduce the Chance of Myopia

Children who spent 40 minutes more each school day playing outside were less likely to be diagnosed with myopia and require glasses.

Myopia, or nearsightedness, has become an epidemic eye problem among children in East and Southeast Asia. This focusing problem has also been increasing at an alarming rate around the world.

In the U.S., myopia has grown from roughly 25 percent of teen agers and middle-aged people in the early 1970s to over 40 percent by early 2000. In China the rate of nearsightedness among children is substantially higher. Some urban areas report that 90 percent of high school graduates have myopia.

Go Out and Play:

Formerly, it was common for kids to be told to go outside and play when they got home from school. There may also have been more opportunity to play outside on the playground during the school day.

A new study suggests that outdoor activities may impact the development of this eye condition. Chinese researchers recruited over 1,900 first graders from 12 primary schools. Half the schools maintained their traditional class schedules while the other half extended time spent outdoors by an extra 40 minutes each day.

Reducing Rates of Myopia:

Compared to the children in the control group, the kids that got extra outdoor time daily had a 23 percent relative reduction in myopia after three years.

Perhaps it is time for children all over the world to spend more time in outside activities at school and playing outdoors when they get home instead of texting or watching a video screen. This might also afford youngsters more opportunity for physical activity, which has been shown to help them concentrate better on school work (Journal of School Health, Oct., 2015). Perhaps that information will help convince nervous parents and teachers that the extra time outside is worthwhile.

JAMA, Sept. 15, 2015

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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