According to a study published in JAMA on September 15, adding a daily outdoor activity class at school for a span of three years led to decrease in the rate of nearsightedness or myopia among students. For those who don’t know definition of myopia: nearsightedness or myopia is a vision disorder that allows affected people to see objects close to them more clearly than distant objects. The students participating in this study were from the city of Guangzhou in China. Opposite of Myopia is Hyperopia(farsightedness) which also affects visual perception.

The past few years have seen myopia turn into an epidemic among young adults in certain urban territories in Southeast and East Asia. In those parts of the continent, myopia has been diagnosed in 80 to 90% of high school graduates. What’s more the number of cases of myopia appears to be increasing, although at much lower pace, even in people of Middle Eastern and European origin. Right now, there’s no effective method to prevent this onset.

Mingguang He from the Su Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, and his colleagues carried out the above mentioned study. The study had children from a total of 12 primary schools of Guangzhou, each of whom were studying in grade 1 when the study began; the average age of the participants was 6.6 years. Out of the 12 schools, 6 were control school (951 students) and six were intervention schools (952 students).

All the children were assigned to an extra 40-minute period of outdoor activities on each school day. Parents of children from the intervention schools were also encouraged to motivate their kids for taking part in different outdoor activities after school, particularly during holidays and weekends. Children from the control schools and their parents, on the other hand, utilized the time after school in the same way as they have always done.

After three years, researchers conducting the study found that while the cumulative rate of incidence of myopia was 30.4% among students in the intervention group, the rate was 39.5% among students in the control group. Additionally, it was also found that the cumulative change in a myopic shift or spherical equivalent refraction during this three-year period was much higher in the control group than in the intervention group.

Researchers are conducting the study, however, feel that further research is needed for assessing these children’s long-term follow-up and comprehending whether these findings can be generalized.