For anyone who has ever tried it, a walk in the woods can be an invigorating and restorative experience. When Diana and the 10 Trees crew went to Japan, they discovered that a walk in the woods is actually a nationally recognized form of wellness, endorsed by the Forest Agency of Japan.
Known as forest bathing, or Shinrin-yoku, the act of walking in a forest and actively breathing the air has been the subject of study by researchers at the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, Kyoto University’s Graduate School of Medicine and Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. One of the world’s leading experts in this field is Dr. Qing Li. His research concludes that, volatile substances in the forest air, called phytoncides (wood essential oils), which are antimicrobial volatile organic compounds derived from trees, have been proven to reduce blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones. They may even prevent certain cancers.
Shinrin-yoku has been determined to be such an important part of the health of the people of Japan, that the national Forestry Agency has created 48 official Forest Therapy trails, dedicated to encouraging people to head out to breathe in the stress-busting air and enjoy the health benefits of a walk among the trees.
So – how does forest bathing work? You don’t have to do anything particularly special. Finding a wooded area that is away from the noise and pollution of a city is preferable. Make sure you take a water bottle, dress for the weather and wear some appropriate sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots. The goal is to relax and take in the atmosphere of the woods – this is a meditative walk, not a work out! A good guideline is to walk for 2.5 km (1.5 miles) in two hours, 5 km (3 miles) in four hours. Take time to sit if you want to rest, look around and enjoy the flora and fauna around you. Most importantly – turn your phone off. Breathe.
In celebration of International Woman’s Day coming up on March 8, Diana was recently nominated as a Forest Heroine by Forest News – a blog by the Center for International Forestry Research. Find out about this honor and see a video of Diana and the “Green Machine” HERE