How a walk in the forest can affect your health –

“Baden im Wald”: Japanese trend spills over into Germany

A summer day in the city is often characterized by heat, noise, stuffy air and a frantic pace. On hot days, people flee to the outdoor pools, which are then often hopelessly overcrowded. A slowing trend from Japan, which counteracts this frantic pace, is also becoming increasingly popular in Germany: so-called forest bathing. A German research team is studying the positive effects of the Japanese health trend.

Researchers from Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg led by geographer Joachim Rathmann want to investigate how forests can contribute to our well-being. They take as a model the Japanese trend of forest bathing. What is meant by this is the conscious experience of nature, which aims to achieve relaxation and deceleration.

The forest in contrast to the hectic life of the city

The forest provides a clear contrast to the bustling city life. Instead of stress, noise, and heated concrete and asphalt surfaces, the environment here is characterized by peace, shade, birdsong, and the rustle of leaves in the wind.

Shinrin-Yoku: Conscious “Forest Bathing”

In Japan, this environment is deliberately used for relaxation and deceleration. Shinrin-Yoku is the name of the “forest bath” there, in which all the senses should be immersed in the silence and pristine nature of the forest.

Research findings in Japan have already suggested that being in the forest has a positive effect on the human psyche and physique. Even short, mindful “forest baths” are said to improve breathing, pulse, and blood pressure. People with burnout or cardiovascular disease could particularly benefit from forest therapy.

Forest bathing is studied for the first time in Germany

Courses for learning to bathe consciously in the forest are already offered in Germany. However, therapies based on this are currently not covered by health insurance companies, as the health effects in this country have not yet been examined in studies. Rathmann’s team now wants to make up for that in a three-year research project.

For this purpose, field trials are to be carried out in the Augsburg City Forest, the largest contiguous alluvial forest in Bavaria. The forest is a nature and water protection area and a popular local recreation destination.

The researchers want to compare different groups who spend their free time in the forest or in the city. “We measure the release of the stress hormone cortisol, blood pressure, heart rate, and skin conductivity,” Rathmann reports.

In addition to the objective measurement results, the subjects complete questionnaires on their subjective perception.

The forest in transition

In addition, the project should take into account that different types of forests, such as mixed, deciduous or coniferous forests, have different effects on the stay. “Due to climate change, we don’t know what the forest of the future will look like,” adds Rathmann. According to him, it is still unclear which forest structures will best adapt to change. (vb)

Author and source information

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This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.

Author:

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek

Sources:

Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg: The forest as a health resource (published July 19, 2022), uni-wuerzburg.deNABU: “Waldbaden” is based on the healing power of trees (accessed: July 20, 2022), nabu.de

Important note:
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.

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