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December 6, 2013

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Eye exercises introduced in preschools

EYE exercises have been incorporated as part of the regime for preschoolers in eight kindergartens in Yangpu District from this week under a one-year pilot program.

The decision to include the program followed a survey that showed a high rate of eye disorder among children, which has been blamed on widespread use of electronic products and an unbalanced diet.

Eye exercises in primary and middle schools in China has been around for 50 years and is thought to help in reducing eye fatigue through massage. This is the first time that eye exercises are being introduced in kindergartens, the Oriental Morning Post said.

Despite its long history, eye exercises has been controversial because there is no evidence that the exercises help in preventing short-sightedness. Chinese teenagers rank second in the world for shortsightedness.

Kong Zhoujie, the leader of the pilot program, told the newspaper the main purpose of the exercises is to ensure that children form a habit of using and protecting their eyes.

In the program, children listen to nursery rhymes and follow the rhythms to massage the eyes with their hands.

Kong and his team conducted a five-year survey on 50,000 children in 50 kindergartens in Yangpu District, which revealed that the older the children, the higher incidence of eyesight disorder.

The survey showed the normal rate of children’s eyesight is 88.12 percent among three-year-olds. It drops to 75.84 percent by the time they are  four and falls to 63.08 percent by the time they turn five.

The survey also claimed that the eyesight could recover with timely intervention — and hence the introduction of the exercises in kindergartens.

Researchers also found that children who eat vegetables with darker leaves have better eyesight than those avoid it. The team has developed a menu with dishes that are good for the eyesight, and will be promoted at kindergartens.

The menu includes dishes made from celery, carrot, black fungus, spinach and Chinese yam.

Doctors said children’s eyes are almost fully developed before they are three years old.

“We find 100 to 200 children with myopia annually, and 30 percent are preschoolers,” said Dr Qu Jifang from the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center.

“Half of them have myopia due to genetic causes, while the other half is because of watching TV for too long, playing with smartphones and iPads — the electronic nannies.”

“Many preschoolers who take part in various courses also suffer from myopia,” she said.



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