Forest Bathing: Getting into Nature is Better than Caffeine

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life. 
John Muire -  "Wild Wool", 1875.

Nature and breath bring peace of mind as well as ...

Another glorious day, the air as delicious to the lungs as nectar to the tongue.
My First Summer in the Sierra , 1911, page 231.

Researchers in Japan have told us that a walk in the woods also known as "Forest Bathing" is good for your body and mind and in turn your soul. Their studies have shown positive physiological changes in the men and women who were exposed to some time in the woods. Ideally they say four hours - Many benefits have evidently surfaced from this research helping the case of "Forest Bathing". It isn't only about exercise, the study says that those who go into nature and spend time away from city streets, have lower blood pressure, lower stress hormones (cortisol) and receive a great boost of their immune system in the form of increased natural killer cells (NK) and anti-cancer proteins.

Getting in contact with nature by walking in wooded areas can only be beneficial for you, and so why shouldn't we take the time to Forest Bathe for a better well-being? After all natural spaces are beautiful, breathing spaces are serene and if a simple walk in the woods can help lower your stress level, would you do it?

Forest Bathing in Japanese "Shinrinyoku"

now a recognized relaxation and stress management that also helps in the fight against cancer. 

No need for long sweat generating exercises, step out into the wilderness, hug a tree, listen to the streams, enjoy the birds songs, let all your senses take in the sounds and colors of the Forest or the Wood. 

Qing Li is a senior assistant professor at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo who is studying forest medicine. He is currently the president of the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine, which was established in 2007. Dr Li has conducted a number of experiments to test the effects of forest bathing on our moods, stress levels and immune system.

Dr Li’s tips for forest bathing are:
  • Make a plan based on your daily physical activity and do not get tired during the forest bathing.
  • If you take whole day forest bathing, it is better to stay in forest for about 4 hours and walk about 5 kilometres. If you take a half day forest bathing, it is better to stay in forest for about 2 hours and walk about 2.5 kilometres.
  • If you feel tired, you can take a rest anywhere and anytime you like.
  • If you feel thirsty, you can drink water/tea anywhere and anytime you like.
  • Please find a place in the forest you like. Then, you can sit for a while and read or enjoy the beautiful scenery.
  • If it is possible, it is better to take a hot spring bath (a spa) after the forest bathing.
  • You can select the forest bathing course based on your purpose.
  • If you want to boost your immunity (natural killer activity), a three-day/two-night forest bathing trip would be recommended.
  • If you just want to relax for reducing your stress, a day trip to a forest park near to your home would be recommended.
  • Forest bathing is just a preventive measure for diseases; therefore, if you come down with an illness, I would recommend you to see a doctor – not visit a forest.

more information about Forest Bathing
Forest bathing enhances human natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins. 
In order to explore the effect of forest bathing on human immune function, we investigated natural killer (NK) activity; the number of NK cells, and perforin, granzymes and granulysin-expression in peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) during a visit to forest fields. Twelve healthy male subjects, age 37-55 years, were selected with informed consent from three large companies in Tokyo, Japan. The subjects experienced a three-day/two-night trip in three different forest fields. On the first day, subjects walked for two hours in the afternoon in a forest field; and on the second day, they walked for two hours in the morning and afternoon, respectively, in two different forest fields. Blood was sampled on the second and third days, and NK activity; proportions of NK, T cells, granulysin, perforin, and granzymes A/B-expressing cells in PBL were measured. Similar measurements were made before the trip on a normal working day as the control. Almost all of the subjects (11/12) showed higher NK activity after the trip (about 50 percent increased) compared with before. There are significant differences both before and after the trip and between days 1 and 2 in NK activity. The forest bathing trip also significantly increased the numbers of NK, perforin, granulysin, and granzymes A/B-expressing cells. Taken together, these findings indicate that a forest bathing trip can increase NK activity, and that this effect at least partially mediated by increasing the number of NK cells and by the induction of intracellular anti-cancer proteins.

I am writing this information from the comfort of my kitchen nook which faces my very green backyard that is filled with green shrubs, grass, jasmin plants and horsetails. I will now go and walk through the garden, listen to the birds and enjoy the soothing chimes hanging in various places. It's what I can do at this time and is much better than taking a break in front of a boring television show with a cup of coffee - though there are some good benefits to coffee too, but that's another blog....

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