Seafarers, Gaze at Horizon to Stay Steady
Study finds this trick reduces body sway, and possibly sea-sickness
SUNDAY, Jan. 30, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- It may not be news to those who spend a lot of time at sea, but a new study reports that if you're aboard a ship, looking at the horizon can help keep your body stable, researchers say.
In the study, investigators compared a group of crew members as they stood on land and aboard a ship and focused on something about 16 inches in front of them and then a far-off object -- a distant mountain when standing on land or the horizon when standing on the ship.
On land, the participants were steadier when they looked at a nearby object and swayed more when they looked far away. On the ship, they were steadier when they focused on the horizon, the study found.
When on a ship, looking at the horizon may make you more stable by helping you differentiate between the natural movement of your body and the movement caused by the ship, explained Thomas A. Stoffregen of the University of Minnesota. He has been studying "body sway" -- how much a person's body moves in a back and forth motion in various situations -- for decades.
The movement of a person's body may predict seasickness, Stoffregen noted in the report published online and in the January issue of the journal Psychological Science.
"It's the people who become wobbly who subsequently become motion sick," he said in a news release from the Association for Psychological Science.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about motion sickness.