Forest bathing in Japan involves being in the presence of trees and has been part of their national health program since 1982. Latest research shows that the Japanese are on to something.
• A recent study indicates that living close to green spaces or spending time there has substantial benefits on your overall health.
• It is certain “organic compounds” released by trees that are the magic ingredient.
• Regular contact appears to improve our health in a multitude of ways.
• Looking at previous research, it is clear that even a small amount of time spent in green spaces can have a profound impact on our health.
What are the benefits of green spaces for health reported in the latest 2018 study?
New research from the University of East Anglia indicates that living close to green spaces or spending regular time there has substantial benefits on your overall health. Green space is defined as “open, undeveloped land with natural vegetation as well as urban greenspaces, and this includes urban parks.”
The global study collected evidence from studies of 290 million people & compared health data of people who spent no time in green spaces to people who spent a lot of time.
Results showed that the greater the exposure to green spaces the greater the reduction of risk of:
• Type II diabetes
• Cardiovascular disease
• Premature death
• Preterm birth
• High blood pressure.
The study also showed that the greater the exposure the greater were the chances of:
• Better overall health
• Longer sleep duration
Why do green spaces benefit health in so many ways?
A lot of the research from Japan indicates that phytoncides – organic compounds with antibacterial properties – released by trees account for all of the health benefits. There are also a diverse variety of bacteria in natural areas that may benefit also the immune system and reduce inflammation.
Of course, then there is the added fact that those living near green spaces have more of an opportunity to engage in physical and social activities.
How soon after can we experience the benefits of green spaces?
A study compared the after-effects of non-stressed adults who walked in natural and urban residential areas.
• Mood improved & stress was reduced in both natural and urban environments. The more natural the environment the more restorative the experience – Look for a place where there is trees.
• Greater cognitive benefits of natural environments were seen 30 min after leaving the environment.
What are some of the health benefits reported from previous Japanese studies on “Forest-bathing”?
Strengthening of the immune system and cancer prevention
In a 2009 study, twenty men showed significant increases in NK cell activity in the week after being exposed to “phytoncides”, and the positive effects lasted a whole month after the exposure.
These NK cells provide rapid responses to viral-infected cells and respond to tumor formation, and are positively associated with immune system health & cancer prevention.
Reduced depression & more energy
A study on forest bathing’s psychological effects surveyed 498 healthy volunteers, twice in a forest and twice in control environments. The subjects who spent the time in the forest showed significantly reduced hostility and depression scores as well as increased liveliness, after exposure to trees.
Better concentration for kids with ADHD
a study found that kids who spent time in green spaces hconcentrated better than the kids who went for a walk in town or around their neighbourhood.
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