New research from Japan purports a close human relationship between walking among trees to positive changes in blood pressure, hormone balance, heart rate, and overall mental health.
The Japanese government has been funding the research since 2004. Japan’s Forestry Agency is now posting a number of officially designated “Forest Therapy” trails to reduce stress and improve health. They call it shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”).
The report shows that a leisurely walk on these forest therapy trails results in an average:
12.4% decrease in the stress hormone “cortisol”
7% decrease in sympathetic nerve activity
1.4% decrease in blood pressure
5.8% decrease in heart rate
Researchers are hoping to determine exactly which landscape features – ponds, trees, flowers, biodiversity – can have the biggest impact on the human brain. That information may help affect urban planning, architectural design and public policy.