This study looked at whether increasing time spent outdoors would have an effect on the development of myopia (shortsightedness) in Chinese primary school children.
Yes I know… the stereotype of Asian kids with thick glasses. I’m only half Chinese but was still semi-blind pre-LASIK.
The researchers divided nearly 2,000 primary one students into two groups – the first (control) with ‘usual activities’, and the second (intervention) with an extra 40 minutes of outdoor activities tacked on to their school day.
They found that the intervention group had a reduced incidence rate of myopia over the following three years.
Myopia development has both genetic (eg. Higher in Asians) and environmental (eg. Higher with increased time indoors) factors… So the fact that Asian kids put in more study hours than their Western counterparts – not being lacist, this is fact – is a double whammy. They’re already genetically predisposed to developing shortsightedness and then their environmental puts them at ever greater risk.
Will be interesting to see if future studies can tease apart the relative genetic and environmental contributions. In any case, myopia isn’t life or death – just a lot of teasing in school. 🙁
He M, Xiang F, Zeng Y, et al. Effect of Time Spent Outdoors at School on the Development of Myopia Among Children in China: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2015 Sep 15;314(11):1142-8.