Forest Therapy

INFTA’s role as a peak body is to raise awareness and strengthen research about Forest Therapy. The rising costs in Public health for governments, health providers, tax-payers and patients result from a range of increasing environmental and health issues modern societies are exposed to.

While school medicine and traditional healing approaches have got their established places in helping to fight some of today’s health issues, new, more efficient and cost-effective ways need to be found in order to deal with typical health problems, such as obesity, stress or chronic heart and lung diseases. Here, Forest Therapy can play a very important role.

Countries like China, Japan or Korea have demonstrated both the effectiveness of Forest Therapy as a reliable, evidence-based Public health approach as well as its financial viability. In South Korea, the income generated by Forest Therapy alone was estimated to reach USD 2 billion in 2015. That, indeed, is a substantial amount.

Since Forest Therapy works so effectively and positively, other countries – such as Australia, Germany or the UK – should follow those examples. INFTA’s role is to assist and furnish this process of raising awareness.

Definition of Forest Therapy

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 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!

walking Oshanassay trail

The general applicability of Forest Therapy as a Public health intervention lies in its versatility within the framework of the contemporary Biopsychosocial Model that currently influences stakeholders and political decision-makers with regards to investments into Public health.

Forest Therapy has broad applications as a Public health intervention as the practice can be applied both preventatively as well as therapeutically.

Due to its versatility, Forest Therapy should be recommended and promoted to the public stakeholders and health care providers as a low-cost, effective and evidence-based Public health practice.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. In more and more countries elements of Forest Therapy become part of “Social Prescriptions” or “Green Prescriptions”.

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.