How spending time outside helps improve biometrics

If you are feeling stressed, take a leisurely walk in the park. Research indicates that spending time in natural settings like forests lowers blood pressure, heart rate, and may improve your Heart Rate Variability (HRV).

The study that we will focus on here indicates that “Forest Bathing” is beneficial to the body and mind, improving the biometrics readings of the body.

What is Forest Bathing?

Forest Bathing is a term that refers to the practice of relaxing in nature. Practitioners believe it helps reduce stress. Recent research indicates it may reduce stress and improve Heart Rate Variability (HRV).

Forest Therapy guide Melanie Choukas-Bradley told National Public Radio (NPR) that “The goal is to “slow down and become immersed in the natural environment.”

The practice of Forest Bathing originated in Japan in the 1980’s when The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries coined the term “Shinrin-yoku” which more or less translates to “Forest Bathing.”

How Forest Bathing Influences Biometrics

In 2011, Young Japanese males participated in a Forest Bathing program lasting three days and two nights. Researchers measured the participants’ physiological responses and compared those responses to the subject’s responses in their usual urban environment. The subjects also answered questions about how they felt. They reported that they felt relaxed and other general feelings of well being.

The subjects’ HRV readings indicated spending time in nature  increased parasympathetic nervous activity while suppressing sympathetic activity. Parasympathetic activity is associated with relaxation and slower heart rate. While sympathetic activity is more associated with accelerated heart rate and our fight or flight instincts. In other words, the subjects’ biomarkers reflected a relaxed, low-stress state of being.

A 2016 study looked at how Forest Bathing may affect on middle aged and elderly Chinese adults. The participants took a leisurely 2.5 km forest walk between 8:30 am and noon. They participated in a guided program to pay attention to the sights, sounds, scents, and physical sensations.

Researchers discovered the forest walk resulted in decreased pulse rates and decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

According to the researchers: “A short walk in the forest can reduce tension, anger, fatigue, depression, confusion and anxiety as well as improve positive emotion.”

We previously published information about how spending time outside may help regulate our natural sleeping and waking cycles. This helps improve quality of sleep which in turn also improves biometrics like HRV.

A visit to your local park may help keep stress under control. Be sure to use your Biostrap to take before and after baseline measurements.

Sources and Resources:

Forest Bathing: A Retreat To Nature Can Boost Immunity And Mood, National Public Radio

Shinrin-yoku Forest Medicine website

‘Forest Bathing’: How Microdosing on Nature Can Help With Stress, The Atlantic

Effect of forest bathing on physiological and psychological responses in young Japanese male subjects by Lee J, Park BJ, Tsunetsugu Y, Ohira T, Kagawa T, Miyazaki Y published in Public Health.

Effects of Short Forest Bathing Program on Autonomic Nervous System Activity and Mood States in Middle-Aged and Elderly Individuals by Chia-Pin Yu, Chia-Min Lin, Ming-Jer Tsai, Yu-Chieh Tsai, and  Chun-Yu Chen published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

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