March 21, 2015 | David F. Coppedge

Save Your Eyes: Take a Hike

An epidemic of myopia is swamping Asian health care institutions. The cause could depend on what side of the front door you tend to be.

Children need to exercise their eyes by seeing a variety of objects, close up and far distant, in bright light.  That’s the take-home lesson of a news feature in Nature, “The myopia boom.”

This threat has prompted a rise in research to try to understand the causes of the disorder — and scientists are beginning to find answers. They are challenging old ideas that myopia is the domain of the bookish child and are instead coalescing around a new notion: that spending too long indoors is placing children at risk. “We’re really trying to give this message now that children need to spend more time outside,” says Kathryn Rose, head of orthoptics at the University of Technology, Sydney.

How does outdoor vision help? Bright light as experienced on a sunny day in the park, in sports, or on a hike appears to help, according to research new and old (some of the conventional wisdom dates back to early 20th century ophthalmic advice).

Elie Dolgen’s lengthy article explores the ins and outs of theories about prevention of myopia. But statistics on large populations make it clear: something about outdoor living substantially reduces the risk of near-sightedness. A graph in the article shows myopia skyrocketing (20% to 80%) in Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore between 1940 and 2010, corresponding to less outdoor experience.

It’s clear enough that leaders in Singapore designed a poster for children, decorated with happy youngsters playing outside, that says:

Keep myopia away, go outdoors and play!

Our eyes are precious, we must take good care of them.

More time on: • Ball games • Walks • Fun at the playground — and other outdoor activities every day!

Less time on: • Computer games • Hand-held games • Handphone games

It appears that eyes were designed for what the outdoors provides.  That’s good advice for us all.

That’s not the reason I founded Creation Safaris 31 years ago, but it’s nice advertising to encourage people to come along. I sometimes point out that most of the great stories of the Bible took place outdoors. Jesus spent a great deal of time traveling between towns, often for many miles. -—DC


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Categories: Health, Human Body

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