The benefits of forest bathing have been studied extensively. Japan, South Korea, Poland, China, and Taiwan have each conducted research confirming the positive effects of shinrin-yoku for all participants.
Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, is not an aerobic exercise. It does not include jogging to other strenuous activities. Any age group can enjoy the genuine perks of this meditative pursuit. And there are a whole host of documented benefits reaped by dedicated forest bathers.
10 Forest Bathing Benefits That Will Have You Heading For The Woods This Weekend
1. Immune System Boost
Just breathe it in. Nature is an incredible healer. For forest bathers, evergreen forests offer an especially potent immune system booster in the form of phytoncides, found in the natural compounds exuded from needles and other parts of coniferous trees. Phytoncides have been found to boost disease-fighting cells by as much as 50%.
NK cells are the human body’s major killer cells for all types of unwelcome invaders, from viruses to cancer. And the effects of several hours of forest bathing can last up to a week.
People often ask, “Which plants are known to release these phytoncides?” Oaks and locust trees also release these healing compounds, as well as some pungent herbs.
2. Lower Blood Pressure
Research indicates that forest bathing decreases stress while lowering blood pressure and pulse rate. To fully benefit from these improvements, a regular routine of forest bathing should be observed.
Although urban parks or other unforested areas or indoor spaces may have some similar effects, they are not nearly so pronounced as when time is spent in wooded areas. Quietude plus cleaner air and natural surroundings all work together to create the magic that is shinrin-yoku.
3. Protects Against Obesity, Diabetes
Regular forest bathing can aid in controlling blood glucose levels in individuals suffering from diabetes and pre-diabetes. For those living with this disorder, even small improvements are welcome.
As with any health routine, staying consistent is paramount. Real results multiply over months, even years. Making regular forest bathing excursions can continue to improve diabetic symptoms over time.
Lowered stress means more self-control and wiser diet choices. Wiser food choices lead to more regulated insulin levels and lowered chances of binge-eating. It’s a win-win scenario for forest bathers everywhere.
4. Increased Energy Levels
Breathing in all the natural healing and calming ingredients in the air of the forests can inspire us, increase our energy levels, and ward off fatigue. Stepping away from day-to-day demands to “be” with nature can help us sluff off the weight of demands that can overwhelm us.
Regular forest bathers attest to a rejuvenated feeling of confidence in both job and relationship-related issues. Middle-aged to elderly bathers benefit from greater endurance levels for a more active lifestyle.
In a 2017 study, 120 elderly patients were evaluated after a 2-hour forest bathing program in Taiwan.
Our study determined that the short forest bathing program is a promising therapeutic method for enhancing heart rate and blood pressure functions as well as an effective psychological relaxation strategy for middle-aged and elderly individuals.Effects of Short Forest Bathing Program in Middle-Aged and Elderly Individuals
5. Improved Sleep
As bathers take in the quiet forest setting, their heart rate slows while their bodies focus on intestinal and glandular processes. Hormones are also triggered that can aid in a longer, more satisfying sleep cycle.
Parasympathetic nervous system activity is increased so the body can complete necessary functions in preparation for rest. In short, it’s a great “off switch” for your mind and body before bedtime or any time of the day.
6. Better Mood
Not surprisingly, as the levels of stress hormones decrease, so do anxiety, anger, confusion, and depression. Different studies have used the Profile of Mood States test to monitor mood factors of forest bathers before and after their experiences.
Studies confirm that 15 minutes of walking in a forest is much more effective for lowering stress and improving mood than walking in an urban environment. A leisurely walk in nature can go a long way towards fighting depression, PTSD symptoms, and other mood disorders.
7. Lowered Inflammation
Trees are natural air filters, constantly converting carbon dioxide to a renewed oxygen supply. Along with oxygen, trees release many compounds that naturally fight inflammation, such as D-limonene. These compounds can lessen symptoms for asthma and COPD sufferers.
Trees also release terpene compounds that can help reduce inflammation in the brain and other internal organs. This practice can be a preventative factor for brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
8. Healthier Skin
The terpene compounds released by trees and other plants can also help with skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. The most important of these compounds are most common in conifers such as pine or cypress.
9. Increased Brain Activity
The demand to stay focused on the day-to-day tasks at hand can be exhausting, causing a condition professionals now call Directed Attention Fatigue. A good way to refresh your tired mind is to let its creative side wonder while soaking in the sights and sounds of nature.
One study evens shows that spending time in the wilderness can increase problem-solving skills. Immersing yourself in a natural setting helps your mind consider solutions you may not have thought of in a more stressful environment.
10. Lessens Children’s ADHD Symptoms
Studies continue to confirm that children diagnosed with ADHD function better after participating in outdoor nature activities. Introducing shinrin-yoku to children with attention issues can be an effective, low-cost supplement to other treatment plans.
There are programs and studies that target veterans with PTSD, teenagers needing assistance with treating addictions, relationship issues and low self-esteem, and children with ADD/ADHD with nature interventions and they have all had very positive results.University of Illinois Extension Office
What Do Forest Bathers Say?
Here are just a few comments from forest bathers about their experiences in nature.
“The forest literally heals me each time I go out there.”
“I would forest bathe, and I believe it kept me strong through all of the ups and downs when dealing with (husband’s) cancer.”
“I feel a lot calmer and grounded after being with trees.”
“…enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it; tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it…”
Source: Reddit Forest Bathing Groups
Forest bathing relaxes the body and strengthens the immune system. It can promote healthier skin and lessen inflammation. But the most sought-after effects seem to be those that restore the soul, that help us find peace and enjoyment in life.
No matter where you live, there are options to help you enjoy the many benefits of forest bathing. At the core of us all, there is something that just wants to sit in nature and lose ourselves in being part of the ongoing heartbeat of life on earth. Try it for yourself. There’s a breath of fresh air waiting for you beneath the trees.