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Health and Wellness in the Woods: Holistic Benefits of Forest Recreation

For ages, humans have felt more at peace when surrounded by fresh air, sunlight and beautiful trees. But it turns out this isn’t just a feeling—it is also a fact. The benefits of nature and forest recreation go beyond just taking a walk to clear your head. Oregon’s forests are a great resource for nature therapy and offer incredible improvements to our day-to-day health and well-being. Read on to discover the many benefits that come with forest recreation and activities.

Forests Provide a Change in Environment


With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we can’t help but sometimes feel like we need to get away. Luckily, when you live in an area with plenty of natural beauty, like Oregon’s forests, you don’t have to go far.

For those who live in urban centers, forest recreation gives you a break from the traffic of the concrete jungle. But even if you don’t live or work in a city, your health may be impacted by poor indoor air quality.

You also don’t necessarily need to spend that much time in nature to get the benefits. Japanese research shows that just 20 minutes in a forest can be enough, at least to start out with. A change of scenery is always a great way to feel refreshed. Everyone needs a break from monotony. And even occasional or rare forest recreation activities can make a big difference.

The Science Behind Holistic Benefits of Nature Therapy

The health benefits of the natural world aren’t just because of its beauty. It actually has to do with the science of the plants that grow in our forests. To start, as we all know, plants produce oxygen. This is one of the reasons Oregon’s forests are ideal for fresh air.

In addition to oxygen, there are also chemicals known as phytoncides. For plant life, producing this chemical helps protect them from insects and fungi. As it turns out, humans are another living species that phytoncides protect from harm. Plants that produce phytoncides include pine, cedar and oak trees, all of which can be found in Oregon’s forests.

How Plants Improve Our Immune Systems

Phytoncides protect us from illness in a number of ways, including increasing the cells that respond to viruses. And they can also increase anti-cancer proteins. In this way, these chemicals provide a certain boost for the parts of our body that are meant to naturally regulate our cells and keep them healthy.

Agawe emphasize the many health benefits, we want to make something clear. Forest recreation doesn’t have to mean heavy physical activity. Having a view into the incredible beauty of the natural world can be an instant mood booster. It also generally has a calming effectstudies have also shown that you don’t necessarily have to uproot your entire life to a forest to receive these benefits. Instead, that boost in cell activity has been shown to last for 30 days after a trip to the forest. So, even just making a monthly trip to appreciate Oregon’s forests can have an impact that lasts a lifetime.

Forest Recreation Reduces Hazards to Our Physical and Mental Health

As we mentioned earlier, the holistic benefits of forests were shown through Japanese studies. One study in the early 2000s showed that spending time in forests lowered the presence of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Both are known as stress hormones, which can be responsible for higher blood pressure, increased heart rate and higher blood sugar.

The tests conducted in this study also showed that nature therapy can also help reduce depression, anger and anxiety. Those mental health issues can also be exacerbated by too much cortisol. They can lead to problems with memory and concentration.

Those cognitive issues are frustrating, which only make us more angry, anxious and depressed. This has been shown in seniors struggling with memory and cognitive issues as well. So nature therapy can also be a wonderful respite for your older loved ones. In fact, it really does have benefits for people of all ages.

Nature Therapy Helps Us Focus

Forest recreation is also recommended for children who have a difficult time staying focused in school. It’s a holistic type of nature therapy that can even help kids who have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorders. Studies dating back to 2004 have shown forests have a positive impact as a natural treatment for ADHD, one that is also free of any potential negative side effects.

Spending Time in Nature is Key to a Good Night’s Sleep

In part, forest recreation also makes it easier to focus because nature therapy is great for fatigue. That’s because sleep issues can sometimes be caused by those stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. Of course, stress and depression in general aren’t great for getting a good night’s rest, and lack of sleep, in turn, can lead to other health issues or make existing problems worse.

This is why we refer to the benefits of nature therapy as holistic. All these parts of our bodies, health and minds are connected, and they can all be improved by spending time in nature.

Just Taking in the Views of Nature Makes Us Happier

As we emphasize the many health benefits, we want to make something clear. Forest recreation doesn’t have to mean heavy physical activity. Having a view into the incredible beauty of the natural world can be an instant mood booster. It also generally has a calming effect. In fact, one study found that even having a view of nature from a hospital bed can make a difference.

Other recreational activities popular in Oregon’s forests include things like observing nature, bird watching, nature photography, landscape painting and more. These activities allow us to use our creativity, which can also be an effective form of therapy. There really are so many ways to enjoy nature, meaning there is something out there for everyone, at every interest and skill level.

Oregon Forests Forever is devoted to maintaining Oregon’s forests so they can provide nature therapy for everyone. You can find more information about the Oregon Forests Forever campaign by exploring the website. There, you’ll find plenty of helpful resources, informative studies and cool ideas for forest recreation. Start taking advantage of the nature therapy provided by our state’s beautiful surroundings today!