In a previous post I said: “To be in Laurelhurst Park is to feel green seep into your energetic field. I have never walked into the park and not come out happier…”
Why is that? The Answer is more interesting than imagined!!
New studies show that casual walking in a forest or park changes cellular and hormonal chemistry in the body. The Japanese tested a concept called “Forest Bathing” or “Shinrinyoku” which indicates that simply walking in a forest for several hours a week increases white blood cell count, decreases harmful cortisol levels, and increases production of immune-response cells, in addition to the more commonly know effects: stress reduction, lower pulse rate and lower blood pressure.
It is intuitive that nature makes one feel calmer; it is the sunshine, the clean air, the quietude… But a series of studies measured physiological effects of forest and treed environments and found that phytoncides (essential wood oils produced by trees to protect them from rot and harmful insects) are responsible for chemical changes that actually increase the body’s health. The effects are almost immediate and they last well after the forest experience.
Japanese researchers performed a series of tests over the last 6 years using over 600 healthy people who walked in or viewed forest settings for various segments of time and were given blood and urine tests prior to and after the walks or viewings. Control groups were sent to urban settings with the same tests performed.
The tests showed that NK cells (natural-killer cells - potent lymphocytes that fight infection and assail cancer growth) increased over 50% in groups of healthy people who spent 3 days and 2 nights in a forest setting. On the 1st day, subjects walked for 2 hours in the forest; on the 2nd day, they walked for 2 hours in the morning & 2 hours in the afternoon. Blood and urine were sampled prior to the trips, on day 2 day and day 3 during each trip, and on days 7 and 30 after the trips. The effects lasted for more than 30 days after the trip!
In a similar experiment cortisol (a stress hormone that has positive effects, but is normally too high in modern life) dropped on average 13.4% when subjects simply looked at a forest setting for 20 minutes.
As a result of these studies, the Japanese government has begun accrediting forests as official Forest Therapy Locations. 35 locations have gained official certification so far and many of these hold free medical checkups, breathing and aromatherapy classes, and guided walks with experts on forests and health care. Health plans are even beginning to cover costs associated with trips to these Forest Therapy bases.
So take a break, walk among the trees, breathe in the phytoncides, and be healthier and happier today!
Yoshifumi Miyazaki, director of the Center for Environment Health and Field Sciences at Chiba University and Li Qing, a senior assistant professor of forest medicine at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo are responsible for many of these studies.
Date Added: July 20, 2010 | Comments (4) | Filed under: Facts about Trees,Uncategorized — Tags: forest bathing, forest therapy — treeinabox @ 2:39 pm