As an individual suffering from myopia, one of my biggest concerns has always been my children’s eyes. They say that myopia is genetic and, evidently, the gene runs strong in my family because my parents and my brother all require corrective lenses. Sometime back, while researching the benefits of rock climbing, I stumbled upon an article discussing how being outdoors is good for our eyes. The research indicated that outdoor exposure reduced the incidence of myopia but they weren’t entirely sure why. They thought it might be because:
- Being outdoors gives children more chances to look at long distances. Animal studies have clearly demonstrated that animals deprived of long distance vistas tend to develop nearsightedness and that myopia can be prevented by providing opportunities to look into the distance.
- Outdoor light intensity causes the pupil to constrict allowing for a larger depth of focus. The range in which objects appear clear is greater and there’s less blurring of images.
- In response to intense light, the retina of the eye releases the neurotransmitter dopamine which inhibits growth (Myopic eyes are longer from front to back than normal eyes). This may mean that the higher intensity light of outdoors actually inhibits the growth of the eye and minimizes the chance of myopia.
According to Aamodt and Wang, the authors of “Welcome to Your Child’s Brain“, the “bright outdoor light helps children’s developing eyes maintain the correct distance between the lens and the retina — which keeps vision in focus. Dim indoor lighting doesn’t seem to provide the same kind of feedback. As a result, when children spend too many hours inside, their eyes fail to grow correctly and the distance between the lens and retina becomes too long, causing far-away objects to look blurry.”
Although myopia is an inherited condition, it appears that it does not necessarily follow that a child of myopic parents will develop myopia as long as that child receives adequate time observing things in natural sunlight.
Aamodt and Wang also reconfirmed that it is not near-sighted work – such as computer use or reading – that causes the development of myopia. The main problem with those activities is that it usually means less time spent outdoors. Luckily, a happy solution is not too far away – simply encourage your child to read outdoors in natural sunlight instead.
How much time do you need to clock outdoors? According to Aamodt and Wang, the research indicates 2 hours a day will reduce your likelihood of developing myopia by 4 times compared to those who spent an hour or less.
So last weekend, I took Hercules to the zoo while hubby had a boys’ days with Aristotle on the Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour because Aristotle’s been begging for a long ride on a double-decker bus. I also checked out a cool playground near our place for the boys to play on. And now that both boys are at school and we have less time to run around outdoors, I think it’s time to start doing more fun activities on our balcony – like our painting fun in the sun…
Times like this, I wish we lived in Singapore with their enviable Gardens by the Bay. Even the Singapore Zoo and Bird Park looks so much better. I miss Australia for all it’s beautiful forest reserves and multitude of outdoor child-friendly playgrounds.