Playing outdoors is great for your kids because it improves mental and physical well-being – and now a new study has revealed an additional benefit. The UK research shows that outdoors play helps to maintain children’s eyesight.
The study, conducted by the universities of Bristol and Cardiff, showed that children, aged between eight and nine, who spend more time outdoors are half as likely to become short-sighted by the time they are 15.
The symptoms of short-sightedness, more specifically called myopia, usually start with the onset of puberty. Being short-sighted means that items in the far distance are more blurred and many teenagers find they then need spectacles or contact lenses to correct their vision.
Did you know?: A third of people in the UK are myopic.
What the outdoors play study found
The study team followed the occurrence of short-sightedness in more than 7,000 boys and girls in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, also known as the "Children of the 90s study”.
More than 14,000 mothers signed up for the long-term study during pregnancy in 1991 and 1992, and the health and development of their children has been followed in detail ever since.
The children’s physical activity levels were recorded with an activity monitor and this data was then compared to levels of myopia. The findings suggest that spending more time outdoors is linked to less myopia by the age of 15.
What the experts say about outdoors play
Dr Cathy Williams, of Bristol University's School of Social and Community Medicine, is reported as saying: "We’re still not sure why being outdoors is good for children’s eyes, but given the other health benefits that we know about we would encourage children to spend plenty of time outside, although of course parents will still need to follow advice regarding UV exposure."