Study: ‘Aquarium watching’ may be good for your health
Community marine fish and coral reef at a public aquarium
Aquarium Watching for Potential Health Benefits
According to a collaborative study released by the University of Exeter and Plymouth University‘s Cognitive Institute with cooperation from the National Marine Aquarium, researchers have found that aquarium watching comes with a whole host of health benefits, such as improved heart health through lowering heart rate and blood pressure as well as positive mood regulation in participants observing rich underwater landscapes. While the mechanism of action remains unclear for these benefits, participants showed signs of health improvements as larger numbers of fish were gradually introduced into the controlled aquascape. The study was comprised of close monitoring through biofeedback as well as psychological self-reports.
Similar implementation of this concept used in doctors’ offices and hospitals had been previously thought to calm patients and families before doctor encounters and during times of high family health-related stress.
According to Dr Mathew White, an environmental psychologist at the University of Exeter, “Our findings have shown improvements for health and well being in highly managed settings, providing an exciting possibility for people who aren’t able to access outdoor natural environments. If we can identify the mechanisms that underpin the benefits we’re seeing, we can effectively bring some of the ‘outside inside’ and improve the well being of people without ready access to nature.”
Dr Sabine Pahl, Associate Professor in Psychology at Plymouth University, adds: “While large public aquariums typically focus on their educational mission, our study suggests they could offer a number of previously undiscovered benefits. In times of higher work stress and crowded urban living, perhaps aquariums can step in and provide an oasis of calm and relaxation.”
Observing Aquariums and Benefits for Patients with Dementia
Other studies have found that even with smaller aquariums, the psychological attraction to fish watching survives dementia and improves weight loss when implemented in cafeterias with patients prone to over-eating in assisted living facilities. In a similar study, benefits of aquarium watching also extended into mood regulation, as dementia patients displayed improvements in overall behavior when faced with minimal access to natural outdoor environments.
Though mood regulation seems to be an objective element relative to limited psychological observation and self-reporting of the experience for each participant, others speculate that future studies could potentially include EEG brain activity monitoring as well as watching blood serum levels of cortisol, adrenaline, glucose and lipid profiles to correlate findings and better understand these mechanisms of action.
While it is unknown whether or not signs of these health improvements extend to aquakeepers under stress of aquarium maintenance at home, current research would imply that those who get to observe aquariums certainly seem to enjoy some positive rewards.
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