Shinrin-yoku comes to America
Shinrin-yoku aka forest bathing (also known as forest therapy) is a Japanese practice of healing by being out in nature. It has been around since the 1980s and has become a cornerstone in preventive medicine and healing in Japan. “In contrast to hiking, forest bathing is less directed, melding mindfulness and nature immersion to improve health” (Aubrey, 2017). A Shinrin-yoku walk’s objective is to give participants an opportunity to slow down, appreciate things that can only be seen or heard when one is moving slowly, and take a break from the stress of their daily lives” (Kim, 20016).
What do we know about the effectiveness of forest bathing?
Shinrin-yoku has been well studied in Japan, though there haven’t been as many studies in the US. Research has shown that Shinrin-yoku practiced twice a week is effective at reducing high blood pressure (Li et al, 2011). Research has also shown that long term Shinrin-yoku can lower your blood sugar levels.
What do we know about the safety of Shinrin-yoku?
You should always consult a doctor before starting exercise. Shinrin-yoku aka forest bathing should be as safe as the trails you are walking. Always follow trails and posted guidelines, take a map, and let people know where you are going to be.
Take a guided walked with a certified forest bathing guide from the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy. There are certified guides around the world. I received my own certification in March of 2020!
Li, Q., Otsuka, T., Kobayashi M, Wakayama Y, Inagaki H, Katsumata M, Hirata Y, Li Y, Hirata K, Shimizu T, Suzuki H, Kawada T, & Kagawa T. (2011) Acute effects of walking in forest environments on cardiovascular and metabolic parameters. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 111(11):2845-53. doi: 10.1007/s00421-011-1918-z. Epub 2011 Mar 23.