Children who regularly engage in physical activity have better visual acuity (VA), finer stereoacuity and less need for spectacles compared with children who are less physically active, according to research published in Clinical and Experimental Optometry. The research also found that visual impairment, amblyopia, astigmatism and myopia are associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
Researchers enrolled 1626 school-aged children in the analysis and assigned them to 1 of 2 cohorts based on age: participants aged 6 to 7 years (n=728; 377 boys) and individuals aged 12 to 13-years (n=898; 504 boys). All children underwent distance and near visual acuity measurement, stereoacuity analysis, cover test, and cycloplegic autorefraction. Caretakers completed a standardized eye health and lifestyle questionnaire reporting the level of physical activity outside of school as no activity (mostly on screens), light activity (occasional walking/cycling), moderate activity (<3 hours/week engaged in sports), or regular activity (>3 hours/week engaged in sports).
After controlling for confounders (socioeconomic disadvantage and non-White ethnicity), linear regression analysis showed presenting distance visual acuity, near visual acuity, and stereoacuity were significantly better among children who reported regular physical activity compared with those reporting moderate, light or no activity in both cohorts. Not having clinically-significant refractive error was associated with regular physical activity, according to the report.
“Visual impairment, amblyopia, astigmatism and myopia were associated with sedentary lifestyles. Socioeconomically disadvantaged and non-White children were particularly affected,” according to the researchers. “Eyecare clinicians should incorporate an assessment of physical activity engagement into consultations, include physical activity advice and plans in managing children’s eyecare, and assess the benefits during follow-up.”
Study limitations include the inability to objectively measure the time children participated in physical activities.
Harrington S, Kearney J, O’Dwyer V. Visual factors associated with physical activity in schoolchildren. Clin Exp Optom. Published online August 11, 2022. doi:10.1080/08164622.2022.2106780