Forest Bathing: The Benefits of Being Outdoors Are Many
Forest Bathing: The Benefits of Being Outdoors Are Many

Research in Japan has demonstrated that being in green spaces improves a person’s immune system. In Japan, when possible, people leave the city for a day in the woods for “forest bathing,” “shinrinyoku” in Japanese.

In two studies—one included 260 healthy people and another 12 people—researchers concluded that forest bathing, which is walking through woods and forest glades, lowers the pulse and blood pressure. The effects lasted a month. Tests of the subjects’ saliva showed decreased levels of cortisol, meaning they were less stressed.

The test subjects were divided into two groups: those who stayed in an urban environment and those sent to a forested area. Both groups engaged in the same activities and ate the same diet. Researchers believe that the chemical phytoncides, an oil that defends trees from insects and decomposition, somehow affect the chemicals in the human brain.

Other studies demonstrated that being in nature increases the number of natural killer cells that fight cancer, increases white blood cells, and reduces glucose levels in diabetics.

Professor Qing Li, president of the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine said forest bathing “can have preventative effect on cancer generation and development.”

The Epoch Times reported research in 2010 which showed that tranquil scenes calm the brain by changing its blood flow, allowing more connections to be made among different parts of the brain.

Japanese scientists also concluded that the feel of the sun, the scent of trees, and the sound of water can have a calming effect.

Nature Therapy

Image of a family walking in the forest via Shutterstock

Getting in touch with nature is being used as therapy and education elsewhere. Eeva Karjalainen of the Finnish Forest Research Institute, which deals with socially sustainable forest management, supports the findings and says that forest visits promote physical and mental health by reducing stress.

In the U.K. and Europe, depression is treated with farm work and gardening. Whether it is tending plants or animals, the act of caring for something alive in the fresh air has had a positive effect on patients with clinical depression.

The U.K. has over three dozen care farms, Norway has around 400, and the Netherlands around 600. The farms are part of a wider school of thought in ecotherapy: Even walking outdoors can be a useful therapy. 

U.K. studies have shown that 71 percent of people who take a “green walk” feel less depressed.

Studies in the United States, have also shown that green spaces have positive effects on hyperactivity and ADHD. 

So perhaps we all should stop and smell the roses more often and get ourselves out into those fir trees!

Elissa Michele Zacher is a writer with publications in the online literary magazine, apt, The Northeast Poetry Journal, and in the Freedom Press. Her poetry and articles are based on her travels, family, and observations.


*Image of a leaf and water via Shutterstock


  • rg9rts

    Yeah right! Poison ivy, poison oak, mosquitoes, deer flies, ticks, sunburn and of course the local boyscout troop on maneuvers.

    • Amos_Clifford

      It is, of course, important to do forest bathing competently, as it is with anything else. While there are hazards in natural areas, they are in general far less than we encounter in an average drive down the freeway. It’s just that we’ve cultivated a certain level of competence for freeway driving. It is quite possible to be comfortable and safe in natural areas. Also, there is now training available for shinrin-yoku guides in the United States. See for information.

      • rg9rts

        Must be California only they have freeways its all toll roads …I’ve more than one citidiot sit in poison ivy or worse yet take a dump and use to to wipe. Knowledge is your best resource be careful it is dangerous out there and have someone inspect your body after woodsing. A tick cost me very dearly Lyme is no joke. And it is migrating to your neighborhood too

  • RockyFjord

    Maybe the Japanese should fix and clean up Fukushima and stop polluting the oceans of the world! Maybe do that first!

  • cheryl casati

    Studies in the USA also know that being in nature affects in positive ways ones blood pressure, life outlook and also is an immense help for returning veterans, being in nature and working with animals.

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