A day trip to a forest park increases human natural killer activity and the expression of anti-cancer proteins in male subjects

J Biol Regul Homeost Agents. 2010 Apr-Jun;24(2):157-65.


We previously reported that 2-night/3-day trips to forest parks enhanced human NK activity, the number of NK cells, and intracellular anti-cancer proteins in lymphocytes, and that this increased NK activity lasted for more than 7 days after the trip in both male and female subjects. In the present study, we investigated the effect of a day trip to a forest park on human NK activity in male subjects. Twelve healthy male subjects, aged 35-53 years, were selected after giving informed consent. The subjects experienced a day trip to a forest park in the suburbs of Tokyo. They walked for two hours in the morning and afternoon, respectively, in the forest park on Sunday. Blood and urine were sampled in the morning of the following day and 7 days after the trip, and the NK activity, numbers of NK and T cells, and granulysin, perforin, and granzyme A/B-expressing lymphocytes, the concentration of cortisol in blood samples, and the concentration of adrenaline in urine were measured. Similar measurements were made before the trip on a weekend day as the control. Phytoncide concentrations in the forest were measured. The day trip to the forest park significantly increased NK activity and the numbers of CD16(+) and CD56(+) NK cells, perforin, granulysin, and granzyme A/B-expressing NK cells and significantly decreased CD4(+) T cells, the concentrations of cortisol in the blood and adrenaline in urine. The increased NK activity lasted for 7 days after the trip. Phytoncides, such as isoprene, alpha-pinene, and beta-pinene, were detected in the forest air. These findings indicate that the day trip to the forest park also increased the NK activity, number of NK cells, and levels of intracellular anti-cancer proteins, and that this effect lasted for at least 7 days after the trip. Phytoncides released from trees and decreased stress hormone levels may partially contribute to the increased NK activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte / blood
  • Azepines / blood
  • Epinephrine / urine
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Granzymes / blood
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organometallic Compounds / blood
  • Perforin / blood
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Trees
  • Walking / physiology*


  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte
  • Azepines
  • GNLY protein, human
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Perforin
  • kartocid
  • Granzymes
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Epinephrine