Playing outside may actually be good for your kids' eye health, helping them to avoid developing near sightedness, according to new research.
Australian scientists are hoping to shed more light on this claim in a new study, which they are planning to use as a basis for more comprehensive guidance for health practitioners.
Several theories exist for why spending time outdoors is beneficial for eyesight. Whether it is caused by increased light exposure or using your eyes to see over longer distances, University of Queensland researchers are keen to get to the bottom of the problem.
The new study will focus on children between 11 and 14 years of age, when short-sightedness tends to develop.
Dr Scott Read explains that the causes of myopia are still not clear, but that a number of studies have pointed towards this association between outdoor activities and reduced chances of near-sightedness.
"We will periodically measure the length of people's eyes and structures within the eye, such as retina and choroid, which are thought to be important to myopia development," he explained.
In particular, the team will seek to shed light on whether it is being outside that is the reason for this reduced risk of myopia, or whether it is the participation in physical activities themselves.
People with nearsightedness have a longer eye than individuals with normal vision, which blurs vision.
Although easily treated with either glasses or contact lenses for most of people's lives, myopia is associated with more severe eye problems in later life.
"Some researchers have also suggested that light exposure may be the reason for the reduced incidence of nearsightedness," explained Dr Read. "The incidence of nearsightedness is on the rise. Roughly 20 to 25 per cent of the adult population in Australia is affected, and in some Asian countries this figure is as high as 80 per cent."