Shinrin-Yoku Forest Bathing For High Blood Pressure

Shinrin-yoku forest bathing is one of the most popular natural remedies for high blood pressure in Japan. Experiencing a forest atmosphere can both prevent and treat high blood pressure.

Shinrin-yoku forest bathing and high blood pressure

Forest bathing and communing with nature and green vegetation produces beneficial physiological whether you walk in a forest area, or simply sit or lie down to view the forest landscape.

Forest bathing has beneficial effects against high blood pressure by:

  • lowering levels of stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline)
  • slowing heart rate
  • promoting blood vessel dilation via the autonomic nervous system

The Shinrin-yoku forest bathing studies

Twenty studies, involving 732 people aged from 18 to 80 years compared the blood pressure-lowering effect of Shinrin-yoku forest bathing (walking, sitting or viewing the landscape) against performing the same activities in a non-forest environment.

The non-forest environment was a city area, just sitting in a room, or simply monitoring blood pressure during everyday life.

Most studies compared forest bathing against the control activity for up to two hours, but in two trials the activity lasted for longer (3 days or 7 days).

The majority of studies also compared the effects of Shinrin-yoku forest-bathing against alternative activities in the same people and were performed in random order.

Results of the Shinrin-yoku forest bathing studies on high blood pressure

In all trials, systolic blood pressure was lower in the forest environment than in the non-forest environment, whether or not participants had high blood pressure.

Reductions in blood pressure were greatest in those who walked rather than sat, in people with pre-existing hypertension, and in those who were older.

  • In people with pre-existing high blood pressure, forest bathing lowered systolic blood pressure by an average of 6.33mmHg compared with controls.
  • In middle-aged or older males, systolic blood pressure reduced by 4.27mmHg more than for young males.
  • For middle-aged or older females, systolic blood pressure fell by 7.16mmHg more than for young females.
  • Diastolic blood pressure was also significantly lower by 1.75mmHg on average, in the forest environment compared with the non-forest environment.

Even if you aren’t able to walk in a forested area, you may still gain benefits from being taken to a forest glade to sit and contemplate the trees, dappled light, wildlife sounds and natural smells.

And if you can’t get away to the forest, here are some background forest sounds you can listen to at home to help you perform relaxation exercises more effectively.

I love those featuring rain and thunder best!

Image credits: tyca/pixabay; lekies/pixabay; bdcbethebest/pixabay

About DrSarahBrewer

Dr Sarah Brewer MSc (Nutr Med), MA (Cantab), MB, BChir, RNutr, MBANT, CNHC qualified from Cambridge University with degrees in Natural Sciences, Medicine and Surgery. After working in general practice, she gained a master's degree in nutritional medicine from the University of Surrey. Sarah is a registered Medical Doctor, a registered Nutritionist and a registered Nutritional Therapist. She is an award winning author of over 60 popular self-help books and a columnist for Prima magazine.

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