Chinese study shows outdoor exercise slows progression of myopia

New research conducted in rural Beijing has shown that daily outdoor activity actually slows progression of existing myopia, otherwise known as short-sightedness.

'The Beijing Children Eye Study' of 382 6 and 7 year-olds found that jogging 30 minutes per day for a year slowed progression in the eye condition.

Students in the study group jogged while the control group didn't. At the end of one year students in the study group without myopia at baseline had lower incidence of myopia compared with students in the control group. And students with myopia at baseline also showed slower progression of myopia compared with students in the control group.

"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," researchers said.

The marked increase in the prevalence of myopia is becoming a major global public health issue, forecast to reach epidemic proportions. It is already impacting Asia, and China in particular, to a high degree.

Alarmingly, increases in the global prevalence of myopia and high myopia mean that by 2020, it is estimated that more than 2 billion people worldwide will be affected. By 2050, it is estimated that more than 50 per cent of the world’s population will have myopia and 10% or almost 1 billion will have high myopia. High myopia can often be the gateway to serious, vision-threatening side effects.

Optometry Australia's Luke Arundel said that “One reason for the increase in prevalence of high myopia is that the onset of myopia is occurring earlier in life. In 1983, the typical onset of myopia was at around 11 years of age. However in 2000, the average onset of myopia was just 8 years of age. Reducing the prevalence and impact of myopia and understanding influencing factors is critical.”

The findings of this study are encouraging to show that progression can be slowed.

Previous groundbreaking research by Australian optometrists found that increasing exposure to outdoor light is the key to reducing the myopia epidemic in children.

We tend to know that getting outdoors is good for us. This research presents us with another great reason to take ourselves and our kids outdoors every day.

Apart from all the other mind and body benefits we'll reap from doing so, our eyes will thank us.

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