Do you know that feeling of peace and ease that comes when you’re standing in a deep, dank forest? The Japanese have a word for it; “shinrin-yoku,” which translates to “forest bathing.” Forest bathing means losing yourself completely to the woods and letting it wash over you.
There’s a reason that walking through the woods and experiencing shinrin-yoku feels so good. It’s actually good for your health! Here’s how:
It helps you get back into shape.
This is probably the #1 benefit of walking through the woods. Hiking is a particularly good form of exercise because it’s low impact, meaning if you’re heavier it won’t destroy your knees, hips and ankles, and it maintains a higher heart rate at a more consistent level. This makes it even healthier than going to the gym.
The forest can lower your blood pressure.
Seems crazy, right? Well it’s true! The CDC promotes National Trails Day each year because it’s proven that spending time in nature lowers your blood pressure.
Hiking cleans brain fog.
If you’re like me, you definitely start feeling a little foggy by 2pm. It turns out, spending time among trees helps clear that up. One German study of 450 children found improved cognition after playing in forest environments, as well as greater dexterity.
It might help with depression.
In a study of Londoners who live near trees, those who lived around more trees were found to be in a better state of mental health than those who didn’t. Those neighborhoods with more trees saw fewer residents taking anti-depressants.
The sad truth of the matter is, neighborhoods with fewer trees tend to be more socioeconomically challenged. Planting trees is important, whether you’re in a rich neighborhood or not!
Forests reduce stress.
The smell of the woods is known to reduce our stress. The sense of smell is closely tied to the emotional centers of our brains, which makes certain smells, like the smell of the woods, relax you.
Scientists believe that the forest has this effect because pine, fir, cypress, and cedar trees contain what are called phyoncides which reduce the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, found in the body.
Nature can prevent cancer.
Researchers led by Dr. Li of the Nippon Medical School located in Tokyo conducted a study testing how walks in nature can help fight cancer. They took blood samples from volunteers before they set out on a forest expedition, where they spend 2 to 3 days in the forest.
After their stay, another sample of blood was taken which showed a huge increase in NK cell activity, which inhibits the growth of cancer cells. This increase lasted for a month afterward! Even just one day forest trip increased the presence of these cells.