Mary Jeavons, Director of Jeavons Landscape Architects, highlights the importance for children to actively play outdoors at school, and discusses how play equipment can be designed and managed to benefit children as they learn to manage risks in their environment.
New research by Australian optometrists has confirmed the positive role outdoor light plays in reducing the incidence of myopia (short-sightedness) in children.
The study, led by QUT’s School of Optometry and Vision Science, Associate Professor Scott Read, indicates that children should spend more than an hour – at least two, in fact – outside every day in order to help prevent myopia developing and progressing.
Last weekend, Assoc. Prof. Read presented his findings at the Australian Vision Convention in Queensland, explaining that, contrary to popular belief, it was not ‘near work’ on computers, books or other devices that caused myopia, but a lack of exposure to adequate outdoor light.
“Optometrists need to make their patients aware that less than 60 minutes’ exposure to light outdoors per day is a risk factor for myopia,” he said. “It looks like even for those with myopia already, increasing time outside is likely to reduce progression.”
Earlier this year, a global study published by the Brien Holden Vision Institute forecast that 50 per cent of the world’s population will be short-sighted by 2050, with many at risk of blindness.
The new QUT study required study participants to wear a wristwatch light sensor to record both exposure to light and physical activity for a fortnight in both warmer and cooler months, while also measuring the participant’s eye growth over the period.
“Children exposed to the least outdoor light had faster eye growth and hence faster myopia progression,” Assoc. Prof. Read said.
President of Optometry Australia, Kate Gifford said “this new finding is of significant importance in our endeavour to mitigate the growing rate of myopia in children.”
“The work of Scott Read and his colleagues is an exciting development and the onus is now on optometrists to help spread the message of the one-hour-a-day prescription of outdoor light,” Mrs Gifford said.