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60-Second Science

Window View Beats TV for Stress

Students with a window view of nature had lower heart rates than those watching the same view on a plasma TV. Adam Hinterthuer reports

[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

After a bad day at the office, we’re more likely to flip on a nature channel than find a flower-filled meadow or sunny beach to lower our stress. But if you can’t head outdoors, you might want to at least have a look. A report in June’s Journal of Environmental Psychology says televised nature is no match for a good old window.

In the study,
University of Washington researchers had students perform a series of challenging mental tests. They hooked each student up to a heart monitor to record higher heart rates caused by the stress of completing the assignments. Some students worked in an office with a view of the university's tree-filled grounds. While others watched a live camera feed of the exact same view on a plasma screen TV. Both groups stole glances a similar number of times, but window-gazing students looked longer and were quicker to lower their stressed out heart rates. In a time of obesity and nature deficit disorders, the researchers say, it's important to remember that your TV may be a window on the world, but it’s no substitute for the real deal.

—Adam Hinterthuer 

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