FRIDAY, May 3, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Being outdoors at recess and increased exposure to sunlight both reduce children's risk of nearsightedness (myopia), two new studies suggest.
The first study, published in the May issue of the journal Ophthalmology, included nearly 350 students at two elementary schools in Taiwan. Students at one school had to spend recess outdoors for the 2009-2010 school year while students at the other school did not have to go outside for recess.
Eye exams were given to students at both schools at the start and end of the school year. Compared to those at the control school, students at the school that required outdoor recess were far less likely to become nearsighted or to shift toward nearsightedness.
The children at the school with mandatory outdoor recess spent a total of 80 minutes a day outdoors. Previously, many of them had spent recess indoors.
Elementary schools should include frequent recess breaks and other outdoor activities in their daily schedules to help protect children's eye development and vision, the researchers said.
"Because children spend a lot of time in school, a school-based intervention is a direct and practical way to tackle the increasing prevalence of myopia," study leader Dr. Pei-Chang Wu, of Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, in Taiwan, said in a journal news release.
In another study published in the same issue of the journal, researchers concluded that increased exposure to sunlight slows the progression of nearsightedness in youngsters. It included nearly 250 Danish school children with myopia. The greater the children's amount of sunlight exposure, the slower the progression of their nearsightedness.
"Our results indicate that exposure to daylight helps protect children from myopia," study leader Dr. Dongmei Cui, of Sun Yat-sen University in China, said in the news release. "This means that parents and others who manage children's time should encourage them to spend time outdoors daily. When that's impractical due to weather or other factors, use of daylight-spectrum indoor lights should be considered as a way to minimize myopia."
The U.S. National Eye Institute has more about nearsightedness.