TRENDY forest walks promoted by the Duchess of Cambridge should be prescribed on the NHS, experts say.
The Woodland Trust said hugging trees, listening to bird song and kicking through leaves can boost mental health.
1 ‘Forest bathing’ was the inspiration for Kate’s woodland garden at the Chelsea Flower ShowCredit: Reuters
So-called “forest bathing” was the inspiration for Kate’s woodland garden at the Chelsea Flower Show last month.
It stems from the Japanese art of shinrin-yoku, which has been described as meditation for people who hate sitting still.
Participants are urged to immerse themselves in woodland and fully appreciate the sights, sounds, touch and smells. The therapy has become a cornerstone of Japanese medicine, with 5million participants across 70 specialist centres.
Stuart Dainton, from the Woodland Trust, told the Cheltenham Science Festival that GPs should prescribe it in the UK.
He said: “Social prescribing through aspects of Shinrin-yoku, forest bathing, I think is a route to helping the nation destress.
MENTAL HEALTH BOOST
“One in four of us are potentially going to suffer from mental health problems.
“Part of the solution is just getting outside and enjoying nature.
Woodlands can help in so many ways.” Studies have found seeing trees and hearing birdsong boosts wellbeing, with the effects felt for hours afterwards.
A forest environment has also been shown to lower pulse rates, blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol.
BBC presenter Kate Humble, a naturist, backed the idea but said it saddens her that people are “very hung up” about getting naked.
Speaking at the festival, the former Springwatch host said: “A lot of people are very hung up about taking their clothes off, which I think is sad.
“It doesn’t mean that if you are dressed, you can’t still have a wonderful experience in woodland or in nature. You absolutely can.
“What’s more important is what makes you feel happy and content and comfortable and destress and not anxious.
“And some people are going to be incredibly anxious if they are told to take their clothes off.
“I’m just saying go out and experience nature in a way that makes you feel happy.” She also called for schools to hold their lessons outside, saying: “I found
education really hard because I’m not somebody who does really well with four walls around me.
“I find it stultifying and boring and I spent probably more of my school career going ‘How can five minutes feel like five hours?’ “There is no reason why maths,
English literature or any subject cannot be taught outside.
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Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, from the Royal College of GPs, said getting outside can have a “really positive impact” on health.
She added: “We do know that patients often benefit from non-medical interventions such as an exercise class, learning a skill or joining a community group.
“This is now referred to as ‘social prescribing’, and ‘forest bathing’ is one of many activities that people might find beneficial for their overall wellbeing.”
The Queen arrives at Chelsea Flower Show to see Kate’s nature garden