Get Outdoors to Help Prevent Short-sightedness

Summer is here, and how amazing it is to feel the warm sun on our skin again! Getting outside is such an easy way to get our daily dose of vitamin D and, let’s face it, it just makes us feel really, really good- being undoubtedly wonderful for the body, mind and soul.

But now, a recent study published in gives us one more reason to get outside more often: to help prevent myopia, or short-sightedness.

The article, titled “The Myopia Boom,” looks at the astounding rise in myopia around the world and at how not being exposed to enough outdoor light might be a major contributing factor.

The author describes how East Asians, in particular, are becoming short-sighted in epidemic proportions:

“East Asia has been gripped by an unprecedented rise in myopia… Sixty years ago, 10–20% of the Chinese population was short-sighted. Today, up to 90% of teenagers and young adults are. In Seoul, a whopping 96.5% of 19-year-old men are short-sighted.”

According to the research presented in the article, the rise in myopia is also common in the United States and Europe- affecting half of the countries’ young adults. The article also reports than an estimated one-third- 2.5 billion people – could experience short-sightedness by the year 2020. This is very serious considering that in severe cases, myopia can lead to such things as cataracts, glaucoma, retinal detachment and even vision loss!

The article suggests that our ever increasing reliance on reading (of paper print, computers, iphones, etc) is likely a contributing factor. But, it also presents research that draws a more surprising link- one between short-sightedness and a reduced exposure of the eye to natural light in the outdoors.

In studies of school children in both China and Taiwan, researchers found that an increase in children’s time spent outdoors during school was linked to a marked decrease in cases of myopia development. Further research presented in the article also strongly supports the idea that our eyes likely need a certain degree of natural light exposure to grow normally and stay healthy. >>Read the entire article here<<

Based on epidemiological studies, Ian Morgan, a myopia researcher at the Australian National University in Canberra, estimates that kids need to spend approximately 3 hours per day in light that one would experience, for example, under a shady tree, wearing sunglasses on a bright summer day (levels of at least 10,000 lux), to decrease one’s chances of developing myopia.

While 3 hours a day in the outdoors might be tricky for many kids to accomplish (especially during the school year), every bit helps. Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to get your children outside more often during the warmer months:

  • Have your kids do their homework and carry out their routine play activities outside whenever possible
  • Encourage your children to spend their school recesses and lunch breaks outside when given the choice
  • Eat family meals outside as often as possible
  • Encourage chores that get your kids outdoors (washing the car, mowing, weeding, raking, walking the dog, etc.)
  • Invest in an outdoor living space that is both functional and inviting
  • Reduce TV, computer, game and cell phone time- encourage outdoor play as much as possible.
  • Make family time an outdoor event- go hiking or biking, have a picnic, spend time together at the park, and so on.

We and our families now have one more good reason to get outside and enjoy the beautiful summer ahead. Nature is healing and supportive in so many ways, now we can add eye health to that list.



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