Why You Should Walk in the Woods

You may intuitively feel that going for a walk in nature is good for you, but research has now shown that it dramatically lowers stress levels and boosts the immune system.

In a field experiment in Japan, testers took 420 subjects for walks through 35 different Japanese forests and compared them to an urban control group. The nature walkers showed a 12.4 percent decrease in their cortisol levels, a 7 percent decrease in sympathetic nervous activity, 1.4 percent decrease in systolic blood pressure and 5.8 percent decrease in heart rate. In other words, they demonstrated a dramatic lowering of physiological parameters for stress.

But there was more.

The forest walkers’ natural killer cell activity – an indicator of immune function – was enhanced by 56 percent. The researchers then tried to replicate the experience in the lab and found that the smell of forest wood and hearing forest sounds had similar effects to walking in the forest, showing how much our bodies are attuned to nature.

Forest medicine may become a critical component of preventative medicine in the future.

Photo credit: Copyright © Thinkstock, iStock T-Tadanobu.