Search
  • Nancy Hupp

The Wonder of a Walk in the Woods


Poet Robert Frost captured the calm, still of the forest in his poem “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening,” which allowed a moment of reflection in woods “lovely, dark, and deep.” In yet another poem, “The Road Not Taken,” Frost describes a traveler pondering two roads that “diverged in a wood,” then selecting the “one less traveled by.” Even in reading his poems, the image of the quiet woods encourages a reflective solitude all too scarce in today’s connected world. Decades later, research shows Frost was on to something; some doctors have started prescribing time in nature, recognizing the health benefits[1], including those to cancer survivors[2].


Frost essentially described the decades-old Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, which means “taking in the forest.” Purists recommend two hours, alone or with a trained guide, walking slowly and noticing all that nature offers — the touch of tree bark, the rustle of leaves, but one study showed that even a view of nature helped surgical recovery[3].


Scientists aren’t sure why “forest bathing” or “forest therapy” conveys health benefits. In May 2020, both Harvard Health and Cleveland Clinic have discussed studies exploring health benefits of forest therapy[4,5].


  • A walk in the forest has been shown to decrease levels of the hormone cortisol, which, in chronic elevations, can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, and headaches.

  • Another study showed a positive impact on a protein that regulates blood sugar.

  • Others credit natural tree oils, known to have antimicrobial properties that may promote immunity


Not surprisingly, research has established a relationship between quality of sleep and cancer survival[6], particularly for those with breast or colorectal cancer. Given that relationship, a July 2019 study explored whether forest therapy could help[7] cancer patients by improving their sleep quality. Nine patients with gastrointestinal cancer completed a forest therapy program. The results showed an improvement in sleep efficiency[8]. Another small study found positive effects of forest therapy in breast cancer patients[9].


The UK is all in. The National Trust has tips and links to guides[10]. Forestry England not only has tips, but its website features videos for those confined to home[11]. Park Rx America rates parks on this side of the pond to encourage healthcare providers to prescribe nature time to prevent and treat chronic disease[12]. Walk with a Doc hosts both virtual and online walks with physicians around the United States[13]. These resources make it easy to experiment with forest therapy, even during a pandemic. 


Do something for your physical and mental health[14]. Log on to a virtual walk or open your door and head out. Allow yourself a respite from all that is troubling our world and let nature work its magic on your physical and mental health. 


Sources

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935118303323, Sec. 5 Conclusions

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6678486/, Sec. 5 Conclusions

  3. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/224/4647/420.long

  4. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-forest-therapy-enhance-health-and-well-being-2020052919948

  5. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-forest-therapy-can-be-good-for-your-body-and-mind/

  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5428985/

  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6678486/

  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6678486/

  9. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935118303323

  10. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/winkworth-arboretum/features/what-is-forest-bathing

  11. https://www.forestryengland.uk/blog/forest-bathing

  12. https://www.parkrx.org/leaders/park-rx-america

  13. https://walkwithadoc.org/

  14. https://walkwithadoc.org/join-a-walk/why-walk/



13 views

EMPOWERING SURVIVORS & FAMILIES TO THRIVE!

Information on this website may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the written permission from Thrivors - The Art of Well™. The information provided on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Thrivors - The Art of Well™  is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you have a medical or heart condition, consult your doctor before engaging in an exercise program or changing your diet. Thrivors - The Art of Well™ is not responsible for individuals who choose to self-diagnose, self-treat, or use the information without consulting with their own health care practitioner. 

The Cancer Care Companion

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon

© 2020 • Thrivors™ • All Rights Reserved