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Teach children outside to save their vision, say scientists

Children should be allowed to study outside to stop them becoming short-sighted, a new study suggests.  Researchers believe that youngsters are spending so long inside for lessons that it is damaging their eyesight.

In 2013  SPNL launched an educational program titled “SNOW- School with No Walls” ,which aims to raise awareness about the Hima IBAs and KBA, species and ecosystems through the hands on program, and learning through fun.

In China, pupils are already being taught in huge translucent boxes to try and halt their vision decline after a study found that 80 per cent of children in Beijing were short-sighted.  Around 40 per cent of Britons suffer from myopia, or short-sightedness, with experts warning that the figure is rising.

British laser eye surgeon Dr David Allamby said: “For 100 years we have researched into the effects of reading and prolonged study on making short-sightedness worse. It has become a common belief that spending too much time inside a book, or today on a screen, will make anyone’s eyesight worse.

“Recent research might have turned this on its head. That’s why today some Chinese schoolchildren are going to school inside a big glass box.

“There are several studies showing that lack of daylight might be the principal reason why children become more short-sighted, rather than prolonged reading.

“What wasn’t factored into our decades of research was that reading and studying are done indoors, away from daylight. So the link between studying and myopia (short-sightedness) might really be a red herring, where the close vision activity is just a proxy for lack of daylight.”

Experts at the Beijing Institute of Ophthalmology, Beijing Tongren Hospital, who have been trialling the glass box school classrooms and allowing youngsters to have lessons outside have already found that it has reduced myopia by 23 per cent.

Previous studies have shown that hunter gatherer societies which live mainly outdoors, such as tribes in Gabon, were found to have the smallest levels of myopia, just one in 200 members suffering from the condition.

In Britain the figure is close to one in three, while in Asia some communities nine out of 10 people suffer from short-sightedness.

Myopia can be a potentially blinding condition due to its association with retinal detachment.

Michael Bowen, Director of Research for the College of Optometrists, said: “There is evidence from a variety of sources that the prevalence of myopia has increased significantly in the last 15 to 20 years, with the largest increases seen in East Asia.

“There are relatively well established links between increased urbanisation and increases in the prevalence of myopia. These are largely considered to be connected to the role it plays in reducing exposure to the outdoors and daylight, rather than to close work. There has been some suggestion that near work (reading, screen use, game console use, etc.) plays a part, but the strongest evidence currently available points to time spent outdoors and exposure to daylight having a protective effect in reducing the risk of developing myopia.

“Further research is necessary to fully understand whether it is primarily the daylight exposure, or the different visual environment / experience provided by external environments, or some combination of these that is responsible for the observed influence of time outdoors on myopia development and the College of Optometrists is part-funding the Ulster University’s Northern Ireland Childhood Errors of Refraction study in order to track the development of children’s vision, including myopia. Its latest report, detailing how myopia develops over a six-year period through childhood, is currently being prepared for publication.”

The new research was published in the journal PLOS One.

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