|'Forest therapy' taking root (from The Japan Times:日本时报)
〔更新： 2008/12/08 15:46 〕
5月2日, The Japan Times(日本时报)报道了做森林浴的效果。
The Japan Times, Friday, May 2, 2008
'Forest therapy' taking root
Researchers find that a simple stroll among trees has real benefits
By AKEMI NAKAMURA
For stressed-out workers, this may someday be a doctor's prescription: Walk around in the woods.
Turning over a new leaf: People take part in a "forest therapy" experiment in Iiyama, Nagano Prefecture, in 2005. COURTESY OF LI QING PHOTO
Scientists in Japan have been learning a lot in recent years about the relaxing effects of forests and trees on mental and physical health. Based on their findings, some local governments are promoting "forest therapy."
Experience shows that the scents of trees, the sounds of brooks and the feel of sunshine through forest leaves can have a calming effect, and the conventional wisdom is right, said Yoshifumi Miyazaki, director of the Center for Environment Health and Field Sciences at Chiba University.
Japan's leading scholar on forest medicine has been conducting physiological experiments to examine whether forests can make people feel at ease.
One study he conducted on 260 people at 24 sites in 2005 and 2006 found that the average concentration of salivary cortisol, a stress hormone, in people who gazed on forest scenery for 20 minutes was 13.4 percent lower than that of people in urban settings, Miyazaki said.
This means that forests can lower stress and make people feel at ease, he said, noting that findings in other physiological experiments, including fluctuations in heart beats and blood pressure, support this conclusion.
"Humans had lived in nature for 5 million years. We were made to fit a natural environment. So we feel stress in an urban area," Miyazaki said. "When we are exposed to nature, our bodies go back to how they should be."
Taking a walk in a forest, or "forest bathing" as it is sometimes called, can strengthen the immune system, according to Li Qing, a senior assistant professor of forest medicine at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo.
Li conducted experiments to see whether spending time in a forest increases the activity of people's natural killer (NK) cells, a component of the immune system that fights cancer.
In one, 12 men took a two-night trip to a forest in Nagano Prefecture in 2006, during which they went on three leisurely strolls and stayed in a hotel in the woods. Thirteen female nurses made a similar trip to another forest in the prefecture in 2007.
NK activity was boosted in the subjects in both groups, and the increase was observed as long as 30 days later, Li said.
"When NK activity increases, immune strength is enhanced, which boosts resistance against stress," Li said, adding that forest therapy for immune-compromised patients may be developed within a few years.
Li said the increase in NK activity can be attributed partly to inhaling air containing phytoncide, or essential wood oils given off by plants.
〔更新： 2008/12/03 19:14 〕