Here’s why more time outside is important for your child’s eyesight

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Here on MyMyopia®, we talk a lot about the importance of getting kids to spend time away from screens and to get outdoors as much as possible. Together, these factors can support kids’ healthy vision.Especially after a year when nearly two out of three of parents reported that their children spent more than 50% more time indoors due to COVID-19.2 Today, we want to talk about why sunlight is beneficial, how much time you should be striving for, and share some creative ideas for time outside.

How sunlight helps with myopia

Spending time outdoors is one of the key lifestyle changes known to help mitigate the risk of myopia in children.3 It’s important for both reducing the risk of a child becoming myopic, as well as reducing the risk of myopia getting worse. In fact, increased time spent outdoors by children can slow myopia progression and may decrease the risk of new myopia onset by 50%.4

The more time kids spend doing up-close activities inside like reading and working on their electronic devices, the less natural light the eye is getting to develop properly.5 According to American Optometric Association, “If a child does not have enough dopamine due to sitting inside, then the eye can get longer and longer, and the longer the eye, the more severe the myopia.” 6 The higher the myopia, the higher the risk. High myopia raises the risk of vision-threatening eye conditions such as retinal detachment, glaucoma, early cataracts and myopic maculopathy, a leading cause of blindness world-wide.” 7 A diopter is the unit used to measure the correction, or focusing power, of the lens your eye requires. A one diopter increase in myopia raises the likelihood of developing myopic macular degeneration by 67%.8 Whereas a one diopter decrease in myopia reduces the likelihood of developing myopic macular degeneration, or loss of vision, by 40%.9

One study cited by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, looked at kids who spent just 40 extra minutes outdoors each day. These kids lowered their risk of getting myopia or developing more severe myopia (stronger prescription/eyeglasses). The kids who spent more time indoors, more time reading or more time on their digital devices, were more likely to get myopia or severe myopia.10

How much time should children spend outdoors?

The American Optometric Association suggests anywhere from one to three more hours of outdoor activity a day to help protect eyesight.11 Experts such as Dr. Gifford, a clinical optometrist and director of MyopiaProfile.com, agree and recommend spending at least 90 minutes a day outdoors.12

Spending more time outdoors should go hand-in-hand with decreasing screen time, and together these factors can support kids’ healthy vision.13 Yet, to truly understand if your child has myopia and needs more than glasses to treat it, it’s important to take your child to an eye care professional for a comprehensive eye exam. [Read: When should my child get their first eye exam?]

With Spring here and Summer on the horizon, we put together a checklist of creative ways to get your child to spend more time outside.

Download: Creative ways to get your child to spend more time outside

Tags: eye health, myopia, outdoor activities, playing outside

  1. https://www.mykidsvision.org/blog/the-visual-environment
  2. MyMyopia poll: survey of 2,514 parents, September 2020
  3. AAO –Academy’s Task Force on Myopia Recommendations December 2020
    Bobeck S. Modjtahedi, Richard L. Abbott, Donald S. Fong, Flora Lum, Donald Tan, Reducing the Global Burden of Myopia by Delaying the Onset of Myopia and Reducing Myopic Progression in Children: The Academy’s Task Force on Myopia, Ophthalmology, 2020.
  4. Wu, Pei-Chang, Ophthalmology, 2013, 120;1080-1085
  5. https://www.aoa.org/AOA/Documents/Advocacy/HPI/Doctors%20of%20Optometry%20in%20the%20Management%20of%20Myopia%20and%20Prevention%20of%20Related%20Eye%20Disease.pdf
  6. https://www.aoa.org/AOA/Documents/Advocacy/HPI/Doctors%20of%20Optometry%20in%20the%20Management%20of%20Myopia%20and%20Prevention%20of%20Related%20Eye%20Disease.pdf
  7. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/american-academy-of-ophthalmology-leads-global-initiative-to-address-worldwide-myopia-epidemic-301171394.html
  8. https://reviewofmm.com/relative-risk-of-ocular-disease-secondary-to-myopia
  9. https://reviewofmm.com/relative-risk-of-ocular-disease-secondary-to-myopia
  10. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/children-vision-development
  11. https://www.aoa.org/AOA/Documents/Advocacy/HPI/Doctors%20of%20Optometry%20in%20the%20Management%20of%20Myopia%20and%20Prevention%20of%20Related%20Eye%20Disease.pdf
  12. https://www.mykidsvision.org/blog/the-visual-environment
  13. https://www.mykidsvision.org/blog/the-visual-environment