[Physiological and psychological effects of walking in stay-in forest therapy]

Nihon Eiseigaku Zasshi. 2014;69(2):98-103. doi: 10.1265/jjh.69.98.
[Article in Japanese]


Objective: To provide scientific evidence of the physiological and psychological effects of forest and urban environments on 47 young male adults undergoing stay-in forest therapy.

Methods: Field experiments were conducted at four sites in Japan. At each site, 12 subjects participated in the experiment. The experiments were conducted in forest and urban environments, and the subjects' physiological and psychological responses to these environments were compared. On the first day, six subjects were sent to a forest area, and the other six were sent to an urban area as controls. The groups were switched the next day. Heart rate variability and heart rate were measured to assess physiological responses. The semantic differential method for assessing emotions, the reports of "refreshed" feeling, and the Profile of Mood States (POMS) were used to assess psychological responses. The physiological and psychological responses of each subject were recorded during and after walking, and the differences in indices were compared between the two environments.

Results: The forest environment was associated with a higher parasympathetic nervous activity, a lower sympathetic nervous activity, and a lower heart rate than the urban environment. The subjective evaluation scores were generally in accordance with the physiological reactions and were significantly higher in the forest environment than in the urban environment. POMS measurements showed that the forest environment was psychologically relaxing and enhanced psychological vigor.

Conclusions: This study provided clear scientific evidence of the physiological effects of forest therapy. The results will contribute to the development of forest therapy research and support the inclusion of forest therapy in preventive medicine.

MeSH terms

  • Forests*
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Relaxation Therapy*
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy
  • Walking*
  • Young Adult