Forest Bathing

August 18, 2010

The Japanese are at it again. No, I’m not talking about their being replaced by China as the second largest world economy. I’m referring to their most interesting way of looking at life, Nature and well-being.

The other day I stumbled upon a New York Times article about forest bathing. Before you think you’ve got to grab a zinc tub and some Ivory soap and head for the woods, think again. Forest bathing refers to the Japanese term, “Shinrin-yoku”, which means to literally surround yourself with forest air. The airborne natural chemicals, phytonides, that plants emit to stave off insects and strengthen their immune system have been proven to increase our natural killer cell (aka white blood cell) activity. In a 2007 study of men who took a two-hour forest walk twice a day, their white blood cells increased by 50% in just a few days!  Japan’s Chiba University conducted another study that found the forest air let to lower concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol, a lower pulse rate and lower blood pressure. Now those are even more reasons to strap on your boots and go for that nature walk.

Although the University of Sussex claims a nature walk reduces stress only by 42% (as determined by pulse rate) while reading just six minutes brings your stress levels down by 68%, the side benefits of walking through the woods are very compelling.

So the next time you find you’re teetering toward burnout, push your chair back, walk away from your computer and head for the wooded hills for a slow walk.

Take a dip in the forest air. Your heart will thank you for it.

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Back to Nature – for Kids

September 13, 2009

Go outside!

I shout that at least once a day. What is a pariah to my kids, is the saving grace to my mental health and, as it turns out, theirs, too.

The Ad Council and the U.S. Forest Service have created a campaign to encourage today’s youth (specifically tweens aged 8-12) and their parents to re-connect with nature by experiencing it first-hand.

There are many health benefits to kids who spend time out in nature. Time spent in nature gives kids the ability to engage in unstructured and adventurous play, improving their physical and mental health and emotional well-being. It also helps create a conservation ethic and a life-long love of nature. And did you know that the close proximity to open green space is related to reducing childhood obesity? The closer the trees, the easier they are to climb.

More fun facts:

• U.S. children spend 50% less time outdoors than 20 years ago
• Research shows, that children who play outside:

  1. play more creatively;
  2. have lower stress levels;
  3. have more active imaginations;
  4. become fitter and leaner;
  5. develop stronger immune systems;
  6. have greater respect for themselves, for
    others, and for the environment.

• Based on research conduced by Euro RSCG, 88% of tweens
like being in nature and 79% of tweens wish they could spend
more time in nature.

So go slow. Go natural. Go to the forest and breathe…