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Forest Therapy benefits

Call it confirmation bias if you like, but at Walk Your Talk Therapy, we love coming across studies that support what we already believe, which is that nature has a positive effect on the physical and mental states of those who spend time in it!

A recent study was published, titled, “Influence of Forest Therapy on Cardiovascular Relaxation in Young Adults.” The researchers were looking to determine if walking in a forested area had measurable physiological effects on the cardiovascular system, as well as measurable effects on the mental states of participants, versus walking in an urban area.

The researchers tracked the Heart Rate Variability (HRV) of participants, before, while walking, and after - measuring the effect of the walk on the parasympathic nervous system activity (commonly referred to as rest and digest), vs. the sympathetic nervous system activity (fight for flight). They found that the parasympathetic nervous system was engaged in a statistically significant way in the forest walking group. They also had lower heart rates and blood pressure in general, post walk, than the urban walking group. These benefits are comparable to those results often found in yoga and meditation groups!

The researchers used the Profile of Mood States (POMS) questionnaire, as well as the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) questionnaire to measure the mood states of the participants. What this revealed was that the forest walking group had significantly decreased “negative” mood states, characterized by tension-anxiety, anger-hostility, fatigue and confusion, and an increase in the “positive” state of vigor! More of the “positive” emotions were identified as “comfortable, soothed, natural and refreshed.” The STAI found a reduction in anxiety levels post forest walk, versus post urban walk.

*Side note - we have used quote marks around the words negative and positive – while we understand that these are generally accepted, we also like to challenge the practice of labeling “negative” emotions and always striving for “positive” emotions (this is part of our mindfulness practice), though we love that this shift often (we cannot guarantee always and to what degree) happens naturally while being out in nature.

If you would like to experience some of these benefits for yourself, combining, movement, nature and mindfulness, click the following link to join us on our “Urban Forest Walk” – conveniently close to town, but surrounded by trees and the natural world!

woman walking in forest
Urban Forest Walk

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