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Playing Outdoors Can Lead to Better Eyesight, Study Reports

Update Date: May 03, 2013 02:51 PM EDT
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Although there are several remedies to poor eyesight, such as prescription glasses, contacts, and even laser eye surgery, new findings suggest that there might be an even easier way of dealing with eyesight complications. These two new studies discovered that the more children played outdoors, the less likely they were to develop short-sightedness, a condition that has been on the rise. Short-sightedness, also known as myopia, has increased over 65 percent within the United States since 1970 and allows people to be able to see things up close but not from afar. This condition, although treatable, can lead to severe eye conditions and vision loss in adults. But now, two new studies suggest that short-sightedness might be preventable.

In the first study done in Taiwan, researchers observed 333 students who were required to spend 80 minutes a day playing outdoors during their breaks. These children were compared to children at a nearby school that were not forced to play outdoors every day. After receiving eye examinations before and after the study, which lasted one year, the researchers discovered that the group of children that played outdoors had a lower risk of developing short-sightedness. Although they did not find a direct cause between playing outdoors and myopia, the researchers recommended that children should have recess outdoors to combat the condition.

In another study, researchers evaluated data compiled from a 2005 clinical trial that involved 235 school children from Denmark. These children had short-sightedness and the researchers aimed to study the effects of daylight exposure on the development of the eyes. The participants were separated into seven groups that represented a different time of the year since the hours of daylight shifted according to weather changes. The researchers measured the axial eye length, which is the length between the front and the back of the eye, as well as vision before and after the study was concluded. The researchers found that increased exposure led to a slower rate of eye growth, which indicated that the child had a lower risk for myopia. Longer axial eye lengths have been linked to worsening myopia.

Both of these studies revealed promising evidence that sunlight could help stall or prevent short-sightedness. The studies were published in Ophthalmology and the American Academy of Ophthalmology

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