There are so many reasons to encourage our children to get outside and play. Outside play has been shown to contribute to our children’s physical and mental health (1). That’s one of the reasons why, when planning the Great Glasses Play Day, we wanted to find parks to host the get-togethers when possible. But did you know that spending time outside can also contribute to your child’s vision?
For years, most people believed that reading – especially in low light conditions – contributed to children who became nearsighted (shortsighted or myopic) in elementary school. This myth is perpetuated in books, movies, and by many mothers who admonish their children to not read too much at night by flashlight. But a recent study (2) that looked at contributing factors to children becoming nearsighted have found that close work like reading does not actually play a role. What the study found is another of the reasons we’ve pushed to hold the Great Glasses Play Day get-together outside whenever possible.
First, the study found that nearsightedness has a strong genetic component, so a child whose parents wear glasses for nearsightedness is much more likely to also need glasses. But that’s not the whole story; not all children with nearsighted parents end up needing glasses, and the study looked at what might lead to some children needing glasses and others not. The long and short of it is that the children with the most outside play time were far less likely to need glasses. When they looked at the amount of time spent reading or doing close up work, that didn’t actually matter. A child who read a lot, but also spent a lot of time outside, was not more likely to need glasses. Similarly, it wasn’t just being athletic or doing sports. Children who did a lot of active indoor sports were more likely than those who were outside to need glasses. So in case you needed another reason to encourage your children to get outside more, now you can tell them that they’ll be helping their vision as well.
(2) LA Jones, LT Sinnott, DO Mutti, GL Mitchell, ML Moeschberger, and K Zadnik. 2007. Parental History of Myopia, Sports and Outdoor Activities, and Future Myopia. Investigations in Ophthalmologic Vision Science, 48(8):3525-32.