Accessibility View Close toolbar

Does Outside Playtime Improve Children's Eyesight?

Girl on grass.

Does Outside Play Improve Children's Eyesight?

Do you see many children playing outside when you drive home from work? Although kids once spent long periods of time outdoors in previous generations, today's youth are less likely to enjoy spontaneous games of hide and seek or kickball. In fact, parents of eight to 12 year olds reported that their kids spend three times as much time using computers and watching TV as they do playing outside, according to The Nature of Americans National Report. Unfortunately, lack of outdoor time can make it hard to see clearly.

What Happens When Kids Spend Less Time Outdoors?

Lack of exposure to sunlight has been linked to an increased incidence of myopia in children. Myopia, commonly called nearsightedness, makes it difficult to see near objects clearly without prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses. The refractive error occurs when the eye becomes too long from the front to the back. As a result, light rays don't focus directly on the retina, but in front of it.

Although wearing glasses has always been a part of childhood for some children, myopia rates have been increasing lately. Genetics certainly plays a role in myopia. Children of myopic parents are more likely to develop myopia themselves, but inheritance isn't necessarily the sole cause of nearsightedness. Close work, like reading or working on computers for hours at a time, may increase the chance that a child will develop the refractive error.

In most cases, myopia is merely an inconvenience, but it can cause other eye problems in adulthood if it's severe. Retinal tears, cataracts, retinal and vitreous detachments, glaucoma and macular degeneration may be more likely to occur if you need corrective lenses greater than 5 diopters.

Myopia Rates Are on the Rise

In the past, myopia rates remained fairly steady, but that's changed in the last several decades. Myopia cases increased by 66 percent from 1971-72 and 1999-2004, according to a National Eye Institute Research Study. Researchers believe that the increase is due to fewer hours spent outdoors and increased reliance on digital devices, like smartphones, laptops and tablets.

Spending Time Outdoors Offers a Simple Solution

Increasing outdoor exposure can have a very beneficial effect on kids' eyes. Chinese children who spent an additional 40 minutes outdoors every day experienced a lower level of myopia when compared to their classmates who remained indoors. Another study determined that children who have myopic parents but spend 14 hours outside weekly have the same risk of developing nearsightedness as peers whose parents aren't myopic.

Although it may not be possible to prevent every case of myopia, you can reduce your child's chances of becoming nearsighted by:

  • Encouraging More Outdoor Time. Spending an hour or two outdoors every day is a simple way to protect your child's vision.
  • Limiting Digital Devices. Reducing the time your child spends playing games or surfing the Internet not only offers protection against myopia, but also prevents painful back and neck pain that can occur when your son or daughter bends his or her neck to view digital devices.
  • Requiring Frequent Breaks. Whether your child is an avid reader or gamer, ask him or her to take breaks every half hour for at least 20 minutes. Breaks are the perfect time to spend a little time outdoors.
  • Provide Foods That Nourish the Eyes. Foods that offer vitamins A, C, E or other nutrients necessary for good vision can help your child reduce his or her risk of developing several eye disease and conditions, including cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. Vision-friendly foods include carrots, peppers, whole grains, dairy products, salmon, citrus fruits, blueberries, spinach and other dark, leafy vegetables.

Increased outdoor time, reduced reliance on digital devices and regular visits to the optometrist can help you protect your child's vision. If it's time for a vision exam, or your son or daughter has been complaining of blurred vision, headaches or eyestrain, call us to schedule an appointment.

Sources:

Yale Environment 360: U.S. Study Shows Widening Disconnect with Nature, and Potential Solutions, 4/27/17

https://e360.yale.edu/digest/u-s-study-shows-widening-disconnect-with-nature-and-potential-solutions

CNN: Outdoor Playtime Might Help Kids Eyesight, 10/3/17

https://www.cnn.com/2017/10/03/health/eyesight-play-outdoors-partner/index.html

Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science: Early Childhood Refractive Error and Parental History of Myopia as Predictors of Myopia, 1/10

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2869059/

20/20: Controlling Myopia in Children, 8/14

https://www.2020mag.com/article/controlling-myopia-in-children

JAMA Network: Additional Time Spent Outdoors by Children Results in Decreased Rate of Developing Nearsightedness, 9/15/15

https://media.jamanetwork.com/news-item/additional-time-spent-outdoors-by-children-results-in-decreased-rate-of-developing-nearsightedness/

National Eye Institute: Myopia Increases in the U.S. Population, 2/17/10

https://nei.nih.gov/news/briefs/myopia

Office Hours

Monday:

9:00 am-5:00 PM

Tuesday:

9:00 am-7:00 pm

Wednesday:

9:00 am-5:00 PM

Thursday:

9:00 am-7:00 pm

Friday:

9:00 am-5:00 PM

Saturday:

Closed

Sunday:

Closed

  • "My whole experience was great. The entire staff was beyond friendly, helpful, and professional. Not to mention, the building itself was clean, spacious, and well kept. I recently switched to Herman Eye Center last year and I'm SO glad I did. Everyone just seemed so happy and cheerful!"
    Courtney, Scott Depot
  • "Dr. Herman was very knowledgeable and professional; the very best (excellent) in explaining his findings and corrective procedure. His office staff were very personable and helpful. Wish I had found them many, many years ago,, but I'm in excellent hands now and feel very comfortable about my future there."
    Jacqueline, Hurricane
  • "hello, i was a new patient , and i really enjoyed the family feeling you get when you are there. my doctor and staff are awesome, and they want to help you in any way they can.
    i would tell everyone i can how wonderful the company is. THANK YOU"
    Shawna, Winfield
  • "Great experience! I have been going to Dr. Herman for 7 years now. He is a great doctor. He is very friendly and takes the time to get to know his patents."
    Megan, Hamlin
  • "I am always impressed when they welcome me by name as I walk in the door, treat me like I am the only person in the room, move me swiftly from test to test and then am greeted with a smile and professional handshake by Dr. Travis. I walk away knowing that I have received an excellent exam and confident with the prescription. I have referred several people to Herman because they are the best I have ever experienced in the industry and I like to pass good news along to my friends."
    Brenda, Scott Depot
  • "Best optometrist in the valley. The staff are exceptional. I highly recommend and give them five stars"
    Timothy, Hurricane
  • "The staff is always very professional & pleasant. Dr. Herman has been very helpful throughout my years of being his patient. I would not consider seeing anyone else for my vision care. Every visit is a pleasure"
    anonymous
  • "Staff is always courteous and helpful"
    Peyton, Webster Springs
  • "Everyone was so friendly and knowledgeable. Dr. Herman was great! He actually took the time to talk and get to know me. A great first time experience at Herman Eye Center!"
    Angela, Hurricane
  • "I love the fact that dr herman took the time to talk to me and get to know me. That's how all doctor should be. Definitely will see him again"
    Jonathan, Scott Depot
  • "I just love Dr Travis and he is always professional with me and all my eye care needs."
    Sherry, from Leon