Last week in Advanced Nutrition and Functional Medicine, students were assigned to read a research article from Japan on forest bathing. Many people already know that being in nature is good for you, but this research study analyzed specific markers to validate its therapeutic effects.
Forest Bathing in Morton Arboretum
The study took place in 24 forests in Japan with about 280 research subjects who first walked in and viewed either a forest or city area. The second day, they went to the other location. Health markers measured in both settings included blood pressure, heart rate, heart rate variability, and salivary cortisol.
The results showed that being in the forest reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and salivary cortisol, and it increased heart rate variability. All have positive effects on the body. It also increased parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) nerve activity and decreased sympathetic (“fight or flight”) nerve activity.
In our class discussion, some opinions shared about this research study varied from those who loved it to those who think it is a waste of time. Several students loved that there is hard data on the therapeutic effects of being in nature to show patients who are skeptical about how something so simple will help them reach health goals. It also contributes to evidence-based medicine, something that the conventional medicine model values substantially. Others didn’t like the article because they thought it was absurd that something like this even needed to be studied considering humans have lived in nature without city settings for thousands of years, and that nature is our natural habitat.
I enjoyed the article and it validates what I have found to be true through personal experience — being outdoors in nature can benefit health and well-being! Have you gotten your daily dose of nature yet?