There’s a forest of research about the health benefits of trees, and as it’s a subject close to our hearts, we decided to contribute our own (less than scientific) findings.
When Franklin D. Roosevelt said “Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people”, he was on to something. Since that speech, over 80 years ago, there have been many reports and studies which have confirmed and quantified what we all know instinctively to be true – trees are good for us. They are good for our physical health, good for our psychological and spiritual well-being and good for our planet.
Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people
The latest study comes to us from American forester David Nowak, who has taken things a step further and put a price – both in human and monetary terms – on the benefits. Publishing his findings in the Journal Environmental Pollution, Nowak tells us that trees, by removing air pollution through their leaves, prevented 850 human deaths and 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms in the US in 2010, saving the nation $6.8 billion in health costs.
Fun and fitness in the forest
Inspired by Nowak’s work we have done a little (highly unscientific) research of our own and found that the benefits of trees are not limited to the admirable job done by their leaves. And neither are forests defined by their trees alone.
Here are four of our most popular forest activities that come with their own healthy side benefits. All of them are available at each of our 9 UK forest locations:
Forest Cycling: Flying along, up and down dips, through puddles and ditches, dodging branches and bushes is not only the perfect cardio vascular exercise, think of all those endorphins you are releasing in to your body too. Hire your bikes from us or bring your own and enjoy the ultimate healthy high.
Stargazing: One of the benefits of our forest locations is their distance from light pollution. This means that the stargazing is awesome (and that’s not a word we use lightly). There is no feeling on earth like gazing toward the heavens and seeing the Milky Way. The benefits to your health and well-being? It will wash away your stress and fill you with a deep sense of oneness with the universe – particularly, our guests tell us, if you are lying back in a hot tub, glass of champagne in hand…
Tree Climbing: Having built up your cardiovascular stamina by cycling through the forest, how about some tree climbing to tone those muscles? Big Tree climbing has proven to be a hit at Blackwood Forest and near to most of our locations, Go Ape is another exhilarating treetop adventure. It not only works out those muscles but also allows you to release your inner child for a few wonderful hours. We must warn you though, you may ache in places you didn’t even know you had muscles!
It’s a lovely idea, that time spent just soaking up the forest atmosphere is good for your health.
Forest Ranger activities: – Step into the natural world and remind yourself what’s real about life. Your Forest Ranger will tell you the names of the trees, show you how they are habitats for animals, birds and insects and open your eyes to the crucial role of trees in maintaining the equilibrium of the planet’s ecosystem. It’s cardiovascular, stress-busting, endorphin-releasing, natural therapy all wrapped up in a couple of entertaining and educational hours. Beat that!
Time for action
We’ve mentioned it on these pages before, but the Japanese have a word for enjoying the health benefits of trees, shinrin- yoku, which translates directly as “forest bathing”. It’s a lovely idea, that time spent just soaking up the forest atmosphere is good for your health. Nowak’s latest study takes the debate into new, more tangible territory. With health and cost benefits being quantified in this way, Roosevelt’s words may once more ring through parliaments and councils. Let’s hope. In the meantime, join us for a Forest Holiday and at least improve your own health and well-being.
Did you know?
When you book a holiday with us, we invite you to donate an optional £2.50 to the Woodland Trust, which will fund the planting of a tree. Our aim is to help the Woodland Trust plant 18,000 trees across the country by the end of 2014.