Forest Bathing

2016-06-26


Walking along the Whitegoat Creek Trail in the David Thompson Country.

Reduce your blood pressure and boost your immune system by engaging in “forest bathing.” No, this has nothing to do with washing in a stream. Rather, forest bathing is about a sensory experience gained through a simple walk in the woods. The colour of the wildflowers, the rustle of leaves, the chirp of a warbler all help reconnect people to the natural world. Sounds as if this is a neo-‘60s hippie movement? Not so. Although a relatively new eco-trend in North America, forest bathing has been the cornerstone of preventive health care in Japan since the 1980s when the practice of shinrin-yoku (translation: “taking in the forest atmosphere”) became popular as a way of decompressing from the stresses of city life. Studies in Japan and Korea, where the research has been concentrated, show that those who take regular walks in a natural setting are healthier. Scientists believe that breathing in organic compounds called phytoncides released by trees strengthens the body’s immune system, lowers blood pressure, helps combat depression and may even help fight cancers. Ultimately, regular walks in the woods will reduce health care costs. We’ve always known that nature has a calming effect on us. Now, it appears that wilderness is one of life’s necessities. Health ministers take note!

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