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The correlation between outdoor activity and myopia

Winter weather is in full swing, and—understandably—people are more inclined to stay indoors. While it may be tempting to cozy up by the fire and forget about the snow-covered streets, getting fresh air is more important than you think. In fact, spending time outside has little-known benefits for your eye health.

Regardless of the season, engaging in outdoor activities is a key contributor to overall well being, and can considerably curb the risk of developing myopia (nearsightedness). Myopia, as it’s technically termed, is a common eye condition that results in long distance vision loss.

We’ll explain how the correlation works, and perhaps it will give you the motivation you need to bundle up and embrace the outdoors this winter.

The connection between outdoor activity and myopia

Studies have repeatedly shown that time spent outdoors reduces the risk of developing myopia. Indeed, not only does being outside mitigate the chances of spurring nearsightedness, but it also has the potential to lessen the progression of myopia cases that already exist.

The correlation between outdoor activity and myopia is statistically significant: With only 76 minutes of outdoor time per day, the risk of developing myopia plunges a whopping 50%. For every hour spent outdoors, the level of protection improves.

It is especially important for children to spend time outdoors, as their eyes are at a crucial developmental stage, and are therefore more susceptible to the positive effects of fresh air.

How does spending time outdoors protect our vision?

The answer to this question is still being explored by scientists, but it can be attributed to several possible factors. For one, spending time outside is associated with exposure to brighter natural light, higher vitamin D levels, increased physical activity and reduced peripheral defocus—all of which can work to protect against myopia.

Not to mention, spending more time outdoors means spending less time staring at up-close electronic devices, which makes one more likely to develop myopia. Screens play a pivotal role in deteriorating eye health—particularly in children—and therefore, any time spent away from screens can help to mitigate vision problems, even beyond myopia.

As more research is unearthed in this realm, it’s likely that we’ll gain a better understanding of the negative correlation between outdoor activity and instances of myopia. In the meantime, the evidence is clear: spending more time outside is good for our eyes and our health in general.

What causes myopia?

Unfortunately, triggers for myopia aren’t widely known, and the condition can come on quite randomly. Nearsightedness can, however, be due to genetics. If both parents suffer from nearsightedness, there is a higher risk of a child inheriting the condition.

That being said, a person’s behavior can absolutely inform the progression of myopia. For instance, as mentioned above, those who spend a lot of time reading, working at a computer, or performing any close visual work are more likely to develop the condition. On the flip side, there are behaviors that—if practiced consistently—can prevent myopia. One of the most significant is spending time outdoors.

In normal-tension glaucoma, optic nerve damage occurs despite normal eye pressure.

Maximizing time outdoors

While cold weather can sometimes make it less appealing to venture outside, there are countless fun winter activities to engage in. From skating to tobogganing, skiing to hiking, there is no shortage of cool-weather sports to choose from. Engaging in physical activity outside certainly makes cool temperatures more tolerable.

One of the keys is ensuring you’re sporting the right winter gear to keep your body warm at all times. Get yourself a cozy hat, mittens, scarf and boots, and you’ll be good to go.

Speaking of gear, it’s essential to protect your eyes with sunglasses—even in winter. It might seem counterintuitive, but the harsh effects of the sun are still relevant even when the temperature drops.

Treating myopia

If you do start struggling to see objects from afar, it’s best to book an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam. Your doctor can provide a treatment plan that suits your individual eye care needs. While developing myopia is not desirable, it’s something countless Canadians deal with. In most cases, corrective lenses are prescribed and offer immediate results.

Get outside!

Spending time outdoors is important year-round, and the winter is no exception. Not only does it benefit your eyes, but it bolsters your overall health and wellbeing. So bundle up, and get outside this winter season. Your eyes will thank you.

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