5 Great Health Benefits of Walking in the Woods
In Japan, there is a practice known as Shinrin-Yuku, which refers to the act of “forest bathing”. For many years, people have practiced the idea of rejuvenating their mind and body by making a trip to a forest. In the following infographic, we want to highlight five great health benefits of joining this practice. Find out yourself how walking amongst the oxygen-rich woodlands can benefit you.
Getting the most obvious benefit out of the way, walking in the woods can be a great stress-free way of exercising. Keep in mind that there are plenty of other “green exercises” you can do aside from walking. Some like to participate in outdoor yoga sessions, while others may like to participate in intense hiking. The main benefits come from staying in a wooded environment for an extended period of time so feel free to do what you wish. If you want to help the environment and kill two birds with one stone then consider volunteering in environmental activities such as tree planting or other important conservation efforts.
2. Reduce Stress
Several studies have shown that being around trees may help alleviate stress. According to an interesting study conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Hong Kong, viewing nature helped participants reduce their stress levels. Another study conducted by researchers in Japan found that being surrounded by nature could help reduce the level of cortisol (stress hormones). If you’ve been having a stressful time lately then there is little downside to inviting a few friends for a trip to a local forest/woodlands.
3. Boost Your Immune System
Plants emit a substance called Phytocides. The primary purpose of this substance is to help plants protect themselves from bugs and diseases, but studies have found that it can also be of benefit to us. When we breathe in the substance, our bodies respond by increasing the activity of white blood cells known as NK or natural killer cells. One study found that a participant’s increased NK activity lasted for more than 7 days after a trip to a forest.
4. Improve Focus
Walking in the woods may also help improve your focus. Spending time in the forest can give the cognitive portion of the brain a break. Instead of focusing on everyday things that can mentally drain us, imagine walking in the woods and gazing at plants, animals, and other aspects of nature. One study also found that walking in the woods can help reduce depression. According to Dr. Berman, a research fellow at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest, a forest “tends to be less crowded so you don’t have to worry about bumping into people, and it also has interesting stimulation to look at, which captures your attention automatically”.
5. Reduction in ADHD
Walking in forests could help mitigate ADHD symptoms. One study found that children who had access to green spaces showed milder symptoms of ADHD. One explanation that was provided for this finding was the effect of attention restoration. Children who play outdoors are given a greater opportunity to replenish their “directed attention”.
As you can see, there have been numerous studies that point to the benefits of being surrounded by a green landscape. If you haven’t done so already, start planning an outdoor trip to experience the best nature has to offer. If you plan on going somewhere more remote, like a national park, then make sure you take safety precautions as well.