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Playing outside helps prevent short-sightedness

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Researchers have found that 40 minutes of outdoor activity every day can cut the risk of children developing short-sightedness.

Rates of short-sightedness, or myopia, in children have been rising steadily across Southeast Asia and also in Europe, affecting up to one in three people in the UK. While the condition is very common, the cause is not yet fully known.

Research

Chinese researcher Dr Mingguang He of China’s Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou led a team that asked 12 primary schools to take part in a three-year study. Half of the schools were required to plan a compulsory 40-minute outdoor lesson every day while the remaining schools stuck with their usual timetable. The children and parents from all schools were asked to keep a diary of how much time they spent on outdoor activities away from school. Children were tested for myopia at the beginning of the study and again after the three years were up.

Results

At enrolment less than 2% of children in each group were considered to have myopia. When the study concluded, 30% of children in the intervention group had the condition, compared to 40% of the control group. Although the difference is not massive, researchers say it is significant.child's play, family playing outdoor games

Clinically important

“This is clinically important because small children who develop myopia early are most likely to progress to high myopia, which increases the risk of pathological myopia. Thus a delay in the onset of myopia in young children, who tend to have a higher rate of progression, could provide disproportionate long-term eye health benefits,” wrote Dr Mingguang He, in the American Medical Association journal.

Free intervention

In the same journal Dr Michael Repka of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore added: “Establishing the long-term effect of additional outdoor activities on the development and progression of myopia is particularly important because the intervention is essentially free and may have other health benefits.”

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About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

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