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Wednesday, 13 May 2015 00:00

Try ‘forest bathing’ for your health

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            Anyone who has spent time in a forest will not be surprised to learn that walking among trees has health benefits. 

            According to Mother Earth News, "studies have confirmed that spending time within a forest setting can reduce

psychological stress, depressive symptoms, and hostility, while at the same time improving sleep and increasing both vigor and a feeling of liveliness," reports Mother Earth News.

            In Japan, they call it Shinrin-yoku or "forest bathing." There, health-care professionals will often encourage people to get out in the woods.

            Just the smell of trees has health benefits. "Chemicals secreted by trees, known as phytoncides, have been linked with improved immune defense as well as a reduction in anxiety and increase in pain threshold," reports Slate.

            Phytoncides are antimicrobial compounds derived from plants that prevent them from rotting or being eaten by some insects and animals. Spices, onion, garlic, tea tree, oak, cedar, locust, pine and many other plants give off more than 5,000 different phytoncides as defence against bacteria, fungi and insects. Many of them are widely used in Russian, Ukrainian, Chinese and Japanese medicine.

            Studies also show that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who play in a green, outdoor environment rather than an indoor, constructed environment, show a decrease in their symptoms. Another study showed that Londoners who live near trees take fewer antidepressants.

            Of course, being in a forest also leads to exercise, a proven treatment for many ailments including fatigue, depression, anxiety and obesity. Combining the benefits of movement with the benefits of a forest setting is an extra-strong prescription for many health issues.

             If there is one good thing you're going to do for yourself today, perhaps it should be heading out the door to go take a walk in one of the Kawartha region’s many beautiful forests.

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