In the UK some cities are blessed with urban parks with mature trees. However, some communities lack mature trees, some have decided to remove tall trees due to various pressures, some people like visiting forests but don't feel the need to have them near their home. Perhaps that situation is about to change.
We know that an active lifestyle is necessary for health and well-being. 20-30 minutes walking 5 times per week maintains our mental alertness, blood pressure, body fat ratio and overall stress levels (a leading cause of cancers) at manageable levels. New findings have discovered that walking in forests is even better for us than just going to the gym or taking a stroll down a local pathway.
Walking in forests (shinrin-yoku) may prevent the onset of chronic illnesses like cancers, reduce blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones (which may have a preventive effect on hypertension). It is also credited with creating calming psychological effects through changes observed in parasympathetic and sympathetic nerves.
Forest bathing appears to increase the level of serum adiponectin--a hormone that in lower concentrations is associated with obesity, type 2 DM (diabetes mellitus), cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome, among other metabolic disorders. A combined study found shinrin-yoku reduces anxiety, depression, anger, fatigue and feelings of emotional confusion.
By developing urban forests we create an oasis in the city, somewhere we can actively balance the indoor air pollution of modern buildings, the information overload and the stress and pressures of the modern world. Sustainable urban planning requires us to include more trees in the urban setting. To mitigate climate change we need more long-lived trees to sequester carbon. Rather than being a nice-to-have feature, urban forests are vital for a cost effective public health system.
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