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Walking among trees

Plants produce compounds to protect themselves that are called phytoncides. Their effect on humans is that they make us feel better. In a study of 290,000 people in 20 countries, they found that spending time or walking in green spaces had many benefits including a reduced risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, early death, high blood pressure and stress.

A Finnish study shows that adults (especially middle-aged women) noticed an improvement in their well-being after returning from a walk in the forest. Also, their cortisol level, which is a marker of stress, lowered. And 22 studies support these results.

In Japan they have been practising Shinrin-Yoku, or forest bathing, for decades, which, in addition to the other benefits, reduces heart rate and inflammation, and increases immunity.

Why does it have this effect on us? Well, it seems that there is a type of very powerful phytoncides, terpenes, which are produced in the trunks, leaves, roots and stems of plants.

One type is D-limonene, which is more effective than antidepressants at improving mood in people with depression.

Walking through the forest also improves our microbiota. Finnish scientists planted forest plants in school and kindergarten playgrounds and children played there for 1.5 hours every day from Monday to Friday. They tested the microbes on the children’s skin and intestines and compared them with children in normal schools. After 4 weeks, the children in the control group had much more diversity in their microbiota, but also, there was a parallel improvement in their immune system.

Finally, forests are so beautiful and walking in them is a free activity, so let’s get walking out there!

Source: 52 ways to walk: Annabel Streets – Bloomsbury Publishing