24 May 2022
A dose of nature helps your vision
With summer just around the corner, we’re more likely to spend time outside over the coming months. The good news is that this is a brilliant lifestyle change for our eyesight and eye health, as being in the great outdoors has a number of benefits in these areas. The positive impact on our eyes occurs for a number of reasons. When we’re outside, we’re able to focus our eyes on objects in the far distance, helping to prevent the onset of myopia and reduce headaches. Being outdoors and around plants also means we’re experiencing better quality air, while the colour green has been found to have some positive effects on us too. We’re going to delve into these three areas to break down exactly how being in nature can help our eye health.
Indoor plants can absorb eye-irritating toxins
Before we focus on the great indoors, did you know that indoor plants can also provide great benefits to your eye health? Certain house plants have great toxin-absorbent qualities. This is good news because the air in our homes is 2-5 times more polluted than the air outdoors, due to a lack of ventilation preventing toxic particles from escaping. Given that we now spend up to 90% of our time inside, having good quality air in our homes has never been more important.
It is thought that having some greenery in your home can actually remove up to 90% of harmful airborne chemicals in 24 hours. These airborne chemicals include acetone and ammonia emitted by cleaning products. Some houseplants are also good for absorbing airborne faecal matter which is commonly found in bathrooms, as well as dust, pet hair and mould which contribute to allergies and can irritate your eyes. The particular benefits of individual plants are:
- Peace lilies can boost your indoor air quality by up to 60% as they absorb acetone
- English ivy absorbs airborne faecal matter which has bacteria known to lead to eye infections such as conjunctivitis
- Lady palm plants absorb ammonia and purify the air – ammonia can cause irritation and stinging in your eyes
- Spider plants are particularly good for absorbing dust, pet hair and mould
Studies have also shown that when plants are visible in an indoor environment, people are more attentive and have reaction times quicker than 12% with no plants around. If there ever was an argument to have more greenery and leafy matter visible around your home, this is it!
Does looking at the colour green have benefits?
Being in nature is often synonymous with looking at the colour green, whether that’s because you’re under a canopy of tree leaves, picnicking in a field, or hiking up a grassy mountainside. You might have heard people talking about how the colour green has relaxing properties, and it just so happens that this is actually true. Our eyes find it easy to detect the wavelengths corresponding with the colour green, thus helping us calm down. This is why green is often used in schools, offices and medical settings like hospital waiting rooms.
However, recent studies have actually proven other benefits of green beyond its calming qualities. An experiment showed participants either the colour white or the colour green, before asking them to complete a task requiring imagination. Interestingly, the people who looked at green shades before the task came up with more interesting and creative answers. If looking around you and seeing green not only helps you feel calm and relaxed, but also stimulates your mind, then being out in nature clearly has multiple benefits too.
Focus your eyes on further distances outdoors
As great as plants’ toxin-absorbent qualities are, alongside the calming properties of the colour green, the most convincing argument for nature benefiting your vision is that your eyes can focus on further distances outdoors. It has been found that spending more time outside prevents myopia (short-sightedness) in children, as it allows them to focus on objects in the distance, ensuring that their eyes remain used to adapting to different visual ranges. However, once a child is already myopic, spending more time outside doesn’t seem to improve their already-deteriorating vision. This highlights the importance of all children spending regular time outside, not just children who are already myopic.
Using computers is known to strain our eyes, not just because of the blue light emitted by digital screens, but also because our eyes are forced to focus on text and objects relatively close to us. In fact, eye strain is experienced in up to 90% of people who use computers daily. It is recommended that you follow the 20-20-20 rule to help your eye muscles stretch and get used to focusing on different distances, and not just look at the screen near your face. When you’re outside in open spaces, you’re able to see into the distance unimpeded without any buildings or screens preventing you from focusing on the horizon.
Our lifestyle changes over the last few years – particularly as a result of the pandemic – have meant that we’re spending more time inside than ever before. This has resulted in myopia (short-sightedness) becoming more common in children. Short-sightedness used to be most common in children aged around 13, but now children as young as 6 years old are finding that their vision is affected. In fact, the prevalence of myopia has grown from 6% at aged 6-8 to 29% for children aged 11-13. This is because they aren’t used to focusing on objects outside in the far distance, meaning that their eyes gradually lose the ability to do so. Studies have shown that the children need to spend an average of 76 minutes more outside each day to achieve an overall 50% myopic reduction.
Learn how to protect your eye health
It couldn’t be clearer that being outside has numerous benefits for our vision and overall eye health. From the calming effects of the colour green, to being able to stretch your eyes and gaze out onto the horizon, being outside in nature has countless positives.
If you’d like to find out more about short-sightedness and ways to help your eye health, you may be interested in the following Optimax content:
You can read more about laser eye surgery here, or give us a call (0800 093 1110) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions you might have about your own vision.