If you don't want fat and short-sighted kids, let them out more

Two separate reports about time spent outdoors serve up food for thought

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 September, 2015, 11:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 September, 2015, 11:02pm

Children who spend more time outdoors less likely to end up short-sighted

The addition of a daily outdoor activity class for schoolchildren in Guangzhou resulted in a reduction in the rate of myopia, according to a study published last week in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association). Researchers from Sun Yat Sen University recruited nearly 2,000 grade 1 students (average age of 6.6 years) from 12 primary schools in Guangzhou and split them into two groups. One group had an additional 40-minute class of outdoor activities each school day, and parents were encouraged to engage their children in outdoor activities outside of school hours. The control group of children and parents continued their usual pattern of activity. Over three years, the cumulative incidence of myopia was 23 per cent lower in the intervention group (30.4 per cent) than ub the control group (39.5 per cent). The study authors say the relative reduction was less than anticipated, though the findings remain "clinically important" because small children who develop myopia early are most likely to progress to high myopia, which increases the risk of pathological myopia - the seventh biggest cause of blindness. "Thus a delay in the onset of myopia in young children, who tend to have a higher rate of progression, could provide disproportionate long-term eye health benefits," they write.

Limits on access to outdoor space for young children linked to subsequent obesity

Limits on access to outdoor space is associated with future childhood overweight/obesity -

although moderated by education level - according to a new study by scientists from VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam. The analysis used data of 6,467 children born between 2000 and 2001 in England, who were part of Britain's Millennium Cohort Study. The children were surveyed at age nine months, three years, five years and seven years. Using computer modelling and after adjusting for parental influences and social economic status, it was found that no garden access for three-to-five-year-olds in lower-educated households increased the odds of them being overweight or obesity at age seven by 38 per cent. The same increase in risk was also seen in children of higher-educated households living in poor neighourhoods.

Being overweight may increase risk of type of brain tumour

Being overweight or obese may be tied to an increased risk of a type of brain tumour called meningioma, according to a new study in the journal Neurology. Meningiomas are rare: about five to eight cases per 100,000 people per year. "This is an important finding since there are few known risk factors for meningioma and the ones we do know about are not things a person can change," said study author Gundula Behrens of the University of Regensburg in Germany. The meta-analysis of a total of 18 studies involving about 3,000 cases each of meningioma and glioma found that compared to people with a normal weight, overweight people (those with a body mass index of 25 to 29.9) were 21 per cent more likely to develop a meningioma, and obese people (BMI of 30 or higher) were 54 per cent more likely to develop one. No relationship was found between excess weight and glioma, which occurs at about the same rate as meningioma but has a worse prognosis. Those with the highest amount of physical activity were 27 per cent less likely to have a meningioma than those with the lowest amount of activity. Behrens says excess weight is associated with excess production of oestrogen and high insulin levels - both promote meningioma growth.