New research suggests that adding 30 minutes of daily outdoor activity reduces the progression of nearsightedness, called myopia, in children if the activity is continued. The study, conducted by researchers in Beijing, China, is published in the May 2019 issue of Translational Vision Science & Technology (TVST).
Myopia is recognized as a major public health issue in East Asia, particularly in China, and is expected to affect half of the world's population by 2050, according to a 2016 study out of the Brien Holden Vision Institute. Evidence shows that severe myopia increases the risk of developing glaucoma or a detached retina, diseases that can lead to vision loss. Myopia is caused by the lengthening of the eye, which impacts how light is bent when entering the eye and, as a result, affects vision.
Scientists, led by Dr. Yin Guo of the Tongren Eye Care Center, Beijing Tongren Hospital at Capital Medical University, studied 382 children ages 6 and 7 at two Beijing-area schools for one year in a prospective interventional study. Students in the study group jogged for 30 minutes outdoors daily. The control group did not add this extra outdoor activity to their schedules.
Examinations at the end of one year showed that students in the study group without myopia at the baseline had lower incidence of myopia compared with students in the control group. Students with myopia at baseline also showed slower progression of myopia compared with students in the control group. Annual follow-up exams following the conclusion of the one-year study showed that in year four, incidence of myopia was similar among the study and control groups.
Our research provides further evidence and confirmation of an association between increased outdoor activity and decreased prevalence and incidence of myopia. This study also indicates that increasing outdoor activity may delay the progression of myopia for up to two years. We now need to translate these findings into action among children in China and around the world in order to help preserve their vision."
Dr. Yin Guo of the Tongren Eye Care Center
The authors also indicate that their results could have implications for how China and other countries structure childhood outdoor activity levels to combat the increasing incidence of myopia and its progression.
This latest study on myopia and activity in children adds to a growing body of scientific research on this topic. Additional studies were presented at the ARVO 2019 Annual Meeting in Vancouver, BC, pointing to increased contact with man-made and indoor environments as potential causes of myopia. Additional information on myopia research is available in a February 2019 special issue of IOVS, International Myopia Institute (IMI) White Papers.
Guo, Y. et al. (2019) Outdoor Jogging and Myopia Progression in School Children From Rural Beijing: The Beijing Children Eye Study. Translational Vision Science & Technology (TVST). doi.org/10.1167/tvst.8.3.2