The effects of forest activities on health promotion have received increasing attention. The aim of this study was to evaluate the physiological and psychological effects of brief walks in forests on young women. The experiments were conducted in 6 forests (test) and 6 city areas (control). Overall, 12 participants in each area (60 participants in total, mean age: 21.0 ± 1.3 years) were instructed to walk in a forest and a city area for approximately 15 min; simultaneously, their heart rate variability, heart rate, blood pressure, and pulse rate were measured to quantify their physiological responses to walking. The modified semantic differential method, Profile of Mood States (POMS), and the State⁻Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) were used to determine their psychological responses. Walking in a forest was associated with significantly higher parasympathetic nervous activity and lower sympathetic nervous activity and heart rate. In addition, scores for the comfortable, relaxed, and natural parameters and vigor subscale of POMS were significantly higher, whereas scores for negative feelings, such as tension⁻anxiety, depression⁻dejection, anger⁻hostility, fatigue, and confusion, were significantly lower, as were the total mood disturbance of POMS and the anxiety dimension of the STAI. The subjective evaluations were generally in accordance with the physiological responses. A brief walk in a forest resulted in physiological and psychological relaxation effects in young women.
Keywords: Profile of Mood State; State–Trait Anxiety Inventory; blood pressure; brief walks; females; forest therapy; heart rate variability; pulse rate; semantic differential method; shinrin-yoku.