Outdoor activity may reduce risk for myopia in children

September 21, 2015
AOA encourages kids to get outside

A new study reinforces recommendations by the AOA that outdoor activity may reduce the risk for myopia in children.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the study assessed the efficacy of increasing time spent outdoors at school in preventing myopia. Twelve schools in Guangzhou, China, took part in the three-year experiment. For half of the schools, one additional 40-minute class of outdoor activities was added to each school day—and parents were encouraged to engage their children in outdoor activities after school hours. The second half continued their usual pattern of activity.

Findings indicated that among the 6-year-old children, the additional outdoor activity at school compared with usual activity resulted in a reduced incidence rate of myopia over the next three years.

According to study authors, myopia has reached epidemic levels in parts of East and Southeast Asia. The incidence is growing in other parts of the world as well. There is no effective intervention to prevent the development of myopia; however, some studies, as this one does, show a correlation in greater outdoor time and reduced likelihood of nearsightedness among children.

However, the AOA says more long-term studies similar to this one are needed. "The AOA has long been concerned about the increased incidence of myopia and the impact of the increased visual stress caused by digital eye strain," says Andrea P. Thau, O.D., AOA president-elect.

She adds, "The AOA strongly encourages children to participate in outdoor activities and to follow the 20-20-20 rule: for every 20 minutes of reading, computer, or close work, take a 20-second rest break by looking at things at least 20 feet away." Dr. Thau, who has a primary care practice with special emphasis on children's vision and vision therapy in Manhattan, advises that doctors of optometry encourage young patients to engage in eye-hand coordination activities and to play sports and other outdoor activities.

AOA gets the message—and the kids—out

The AOA capitalized on the attention that the publication of the new study brought to the topic with a nationally distributed news release. At press time, the release had been picked up by more than 214 news and health websites, with an audience reach of more than 13 million consumers. 

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