Indexed on: 09 Jul '09Published on: 09 Jul '09Published in: Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine
"Shinrin-yoku", which can be defined as "taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing", has been receiving increasing attention in Japan in recent years for its capacity to provide relaxation and reduce stress. Since 2004, the authors of this paper have been involved in an investigation designed to ascertain the physiological effects of "Shinrin-yoku" within the framework of the "Therapeutic Effects of Forests" project. We have conducted physiological experiments, both in actual forests and in the laboratory, to elucidate the physiological effects on individuals of exposure to the total environment of forests or to only certain elements of this environment, such as the odor of wood, the sound of running stream water, and the scenery of the forest. We have obtained physiological measurements of central nervous activity, autonomic nervous activity, and biomarkers reflecting stress response that can be applied in this line of approach. Using these measurements, we have summarized the separate elements of forests in terms of the five senses. We have also reviewed a selection of field studies and introduced a number of results from ongoing projects as well as those from early studies. Future perspectives are also discussed.