Heal your Body and Mind by taking a Walk in the Forest

IMG_9264Could a 15 minute walk in nature help you fight the common cold or even cancer? What about reducing your stress so that your anxiety and depression decrease? Could it also help reduce your blood pressure?

I just got back yesterday from an incredible 3-day holistic wellness conference called Paleo f(x) and several speakers talked about the benefits of “Forest Bathing”.

Forest Bathing – what is this? Sounds cool – I can definitely get behind any research that shows getting out in nature is beneficial!

But alas, I am behind the times as usual because even The Washington Post is talking about it in a recently published article called “‘Forest Bathing’ is latest fitness trend to hit U.S. – ‘Where yoga was 30 years ago’.

The term Forest Bathing came from a Japanese minister in the early 1980’s when the practice of Shinrin-yoku began. Shinrin-yoku literally translates to “forest bathing” or “taking in the forest atmosphere” and is now a common practice that is part of preventative health care and healing protocols in Japan.

Research has shown that a forest bathing trip can boost your immune system by increasing the number of Natural Killer (NK) cells in your body. These natural killer cells can kill tumor cells by releasing anti-cancer proteins, further suggesting that forest bathing trips may also have a preventative effect on cancer generation and development. The organic compounds given off by trees in the forest (called phytoncides) support the development of more NK cells in our body. One interesting note, walking through a park in the middle of the city did not show the same effect on the immune system.

Studies have also shown that parasympathetic indicators were increased in 80% of the individuals in the study – or in other words – people switched out of stress mode. Blood pressure has also been shown to significantly decrease after forest bathing. According to research, depression can also be reduced when walking in nature, mainly because the mind is not engaged in negative self-referential overthinking.

What this research suggests, in my mind, is that we are programmed to have nature as part of our lives and it is one of the fundamental foundations of optimal health. While just walking in the forest may not rebalance you completely, it could be a positive step forward….

For Best Results:

  1. Pack a lunch (nutrient dense, real food, of course)
  2. Drive to a forest outside of your town
  3. Leave your cell phone in the car
  4. Take a a leisurely walk for about 1.5 miles
  5. Listen, Smell and Watch the beauty that is all around
  6. Enjoy the benefits for potentially up to 7 days

 

Li Q. Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine. 2010;15(1):9-17. doi:10.1007/s12199-008-0068-3.

Kobayashi H, Song C, Ikei H, Kagawa T, Miyazaki Y. Analysis of Individual Variations in Autonomic Responses to Urban and Forest Environments. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM. 2015;2015:671094. doi:10.1155/2015/671094.

Bratman, Gregory, et.al. Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenus prefrontal cortex activation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA:vol. 112 no. 28, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1510459112

3 Comments on “Heal your Body and Mind by taking a Walk in the Forest

  1. Thank you for that great post. I would only add after your last step to Repeat it over and over!

  2. Sounds wonderful! I’m always behind a movement that gets me outside, especially in the woods, to improve my health. Thank you for a great article. But . . . . I want to take my cell phone – I can turn off the ringer. I always find something I want a picture of to add to my “reference file” for art.

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