Forest Therapy is an evidence-based Public health practice.
Guided Forest Therapy walks combine a specific blend of complementary physical and mental exercises in suitable forest surroundings leading to a lower heart beat, blood pressure and stress levels while, at the same time, the immune system, breathing and the overall physical and mental fitness and agility are strengthened.
The above definition of Forest Therapy was arrived at by an international evaluation of more than 120 experts from 20 countries in 2017. This is the very definition agreed to by experts and published in:
- Kotte, D., Li, Q, Shin, W.S. & Michalsen, A. (eds.) (2019). International Handbook of Forest Therapy. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK; Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Forest Therapy is known in Japan (Shinrin-yoku 森林療法) and South Korea (Sanlimyok 산림욕) as an effective Public health practice. Both Governments have actively rallied behind promoting Forest Therapy to all age groups as a means for avoiding or reducing the chances of falling ill. This has saved these countries billions of dollars since introducing Forest Therapy as an official Public health concept. In South Korea, the financial benefits for the taxpayer were estimated to exceed USD 1.4 billion alone in 2013. More recent estimates put this figure to nearly USD 2 billion per annum!
Other countries have begun to recognize the economic gains which investments into Forest Therapy will render. Germany, Austria and Switzerland, traditionally keen to recommend walks in nature and forests and also strongly utilizing the beneficial effects of cold, natural water for strengthening the immune system and blood circulation – the so-called Kneipp-cures -, have already turned recreation in forests and spas into a multi-billion dollar health and wellness industry. Also, the Scandinavian countries encourage young and old to become more active and get out and about in forests in order to enhance their physical fitness levels. “Green Prescriptions” are available in New Zealand, too, just to name a few countries which have advanced in recognizing the health potential of Forest Therapy for their citizens.
Thus, INFTA initiates and advocates for a continued and enhanced dialogue among all relevant stakeholders involved in Public health. It is INFTA’s mission to establish Forest Therapy firmly as an evidence-based, research-supported Public health practice internationally.