Why playing outside is good for children’s eyesight

According to a study carried out by researchers at the University of Guangzhou, children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to develop myopia, or near-sightedness.

Myopia is becoming increasingly common worldwide, and currently there is no effective preventative treatment.

The researchers developed timetables for six groups of school children, giving each of them different amounts of outdoor activities.

Children in the group that spent most time outdoors were almost 10 per cent less likely to be near-sighted after a three-year period.

The study’s lead author, Mingguang He, explains the findings:

‘Our study achieved an absolute difference of 9.1 per cent in the incidence rate of myopia, representing a 23 per cent relative reduction in incident myopia after three years, which was less than the anticipated reduction.

‘However, this is clinically important because small children who develop myopia early are most likely to progress to high myopia, which increases the risk of pathological myopia. Thus a delay in the onset of myopia in young children, who tend to have a higher rate of progression, could provide disproportionate long-term eye health benefits.’

‘Further studies are needed to assess long-term follow-up of these children and the generalisability of these findings.’

This study does not clarify what it is about being outdoors that prevents myopia. It was once believed to be caused by extended periods of near-focus ‘close work’, because it affected scribes and seamstresses. In this century a lot of leisure time is spent in a similar way, and the condition is blamed on the amount of time spent squinting at mobile phone and laptop screens.


  • JonathanBagley

    That the class swot wore glasses because of too much reading was, I’m sure, regarded as an ol-fashioned myth and a bit of a joke when I was a child 50 years ago. Interesting it’s becoming fact again after such a long break.

  • Rubbish. I have always spent lots of time outdoors and it hasn’t stopped my left eye from being strongly myopic, while my right is nearly perfect (it’s always shocking when I hold down my right eyelid and look only through the left eye).

    I suppose we could have nearly ideal eyesight if we spent our days hunting deer or something; but as a civilized person with an educated mind, I’ll vote for my compromised eyesight and my sager brain from reading, thanks very much.