[Preventive medical effects of nature therapy]

Nihon Eiseigaku Zasshi. 2011 Sep;66(4):651-6. doi: 10.1265/jjh.66.651.
[Article in Japanese]


Five million years has passed since a subset of primates recognizably became human. Because we have already spent more than 99.99% of our evolutionary history in natural environments, it is thought that we are essentially adaptive to nature. However, we live in a society characterized by urbanization and artificiality, despite our physiological functions still being adapted to nature. We conducted experiments involving 420 subjects at 35 different forests throughout Japan. As a result, these subjects sitting in natural surroundings showed decreases in the following physiological indices compared with the urban control group: 12.4% decrease in cortisol level, 7.0% decrease in sympathetic nervous activity, 1.4% decrease in systolic blood pressure, and 5.8% decrease in heart rate. This shows that stressful states can be relieved by forest therapy. It should also be noted that parasympathetic nerve activity increased by 55.0%, indicating a relaxed state. The results of walking experiments were also similar. Li et al. demonstrated that immune functions are enhanced by forest therapy. Middle-aged employees volunteered to participate in these experiments. NK (natural killer cells) activity, as an indicator of immune function, increased by 56% on the second day and returned to normal levels. A significant increase of 23% was maintained for 1 month even after these subjects returned to urban life, clearly illustrating the preventive medical effects of nature therapy. We expect nature therapy to play an increasingly important role in preventive medicine in the future.

Publication types

  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Relaxation / physiology
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*
  • Trees*