Spending time outdoors can reduce children's risk of developing short-sightedness

Spending more time outside can help prevent children developing short-sightedness, a study has found.

New research from the Global Myopia Awareness Coalition (GMAC) has revealed a decline in the amount of time children spend outdoors, which could be impacting their eye health.

The study discovered that 76 extra minutes outside a day can reduce the risk of short-sightedness (myopia) by 50%.

More than half of parents report their children play outside less than they did when they were young, and over three-quarters said they would like to spend more time in the great outdoors with their family.

However, they feel unable to because their kids prefer to spend their time on electronic devices or the parents don't feel they have enough time.

The study also found that nearly a quarter of parents had never taken their children for an eye test.

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Girls Aloud star Kimberley Walsh has first-hand experience of myopia and has been working with GMAC to get kids outside this summer.

She said: "Raising awareness of myopia is so important to me as I am short-sighted and am a mother of young children. I'm also conscious that it's something that may affect my children, so I'm constantly on the lookout for any signs that they may have myopia.

"The holidays make juggling work and family life tough and it's so easy for kids to spend all day glued to screens and digital devices. Whilst I am short-sighted, I didn't realise that the risk of developing myopia is 3.5 times greater when kids spend seven hours or more on screens and this goes up dramatically if one or more parents are short-sighted.

"That's why I'm supporting the Global Myopia Awareness Coalition's Sight Sanctuary campaign and encouraging families to get outside for at least two hours a day and give their eyes a break."

Optometrist Hamza Mussa, who is working with GMAC, said: "Myopia is another term for short-sightedness, and it is on the rise in children. It has become a global health issue, so regular eye examinations (not just a vision screening) with an optometrist are important to identify any problems, especially at an early age.

"It is an irreversible disease and can be a barrier to a child's ability to do their best and fulfil their potential, so it is crucial that children have annual eye exams."