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      Physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the atmosphere of the forest) in an old-growth broadleaf forest in Yamagata Prefecture, Japan.

      Journal of Physiological Anthropology

      Male, Adult, Atmosphere, Blood Pressure, Environment, Heart Rate, Humans, Hydrocortisone, metabolism, Japan, Pulse, Questionnaires, Relaxation Therapy, Saliva, Stress, Physiological, physiopathology, therapy, Trees, Walking

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          Abstract

          The physiological effects of "Shinrin-yoku" (taking in the atmosphere of the forest) were examined by investigating blood pressure, pulse rate, heart rate variability (HRV), salivary cortisol concentration, and immunoglobulin A concentration in saliva. Subjective feelings of being "comfortable", "calm", and "refreshed" were also assessed by questionnaire. The subjects were 12 male university students aged from 21 to 23 (mean+/-SD: 22.0+/-1.0). The physiological measurements were conducted six times, i.e., in the morning and evening before meals at the place of accommodation, before and after the subjects walked a predetermined course in the forest and city areas for 15 minutes, and before and after they sat still on a chair watching the scenery in the respective areas for 15 minutes. The findings were as follows. In the forest area compared to the city area, 1) blood pressure and pulse rate were significantly lower, and 2) the power of the HF component of the HRV tended to be higher and LF/(LF+HF) tended to be lower. Also, 3) salivary cortisol concentration was significantly lower in the forest area. These physiological responses suggest that sympathetic nervous activity was suppressed and parasympathetic nervous activity was enhanced in the forest area, and that "Shinrin-yoku" reduced stress levels. In the subjective evaluation, 4) "comfortable", "calm", and "refreshed" feelings were significantly higher in the forest area. The present study has, by conducting physiological investigations with subjective evaluations as supporting evidence, demonstrated the relaxing and stress-relieving effects of "Shinrin-yoku".

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