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ing the number and activity of the super cells that fight off cancer cells, suggesting
that spending time in the forest may have a preventative effect on
cancer.11 However, it is important to be aware that field experiments evaluating
the physiological benefits of forest walking have found that such benefits
are not the same as those derived from walking in an urban setting.
The results of a study comparing the physiological benefits of walking in a
forest versus in an urban environment indicated that a forest walking program
has the most significant positive influence on cardiovascular relaxation.
12 These trends were comparable to results found in the context of
meditation or yoga therapies. Moreover, participants experienced less negative
mood states such as tension, anxiety, anger, hostility, fatigue and confusion.
They also reported feeling more comfortable, natural and refreshed
after forest walking compared to those who walked in an urban environment.
The benefits of nature are so powerful that even viewing images of
nature can positively influence physical and mental health. In one study
carried out at Uppsala University Hospital in Sweden,13 160 patients who
had undergone heart surgery were randomly allocated to a visual condition
consisting of either pictures of nature, such as water and vegetation, an
abstract picture dominated by either straight lines or curving forms, or a
control condition with either a white panel or no picture. Results showed
that individuals exposed to the view of water and vegetation experienced
less post-operative anxiety than the control groups and those exposed to the
other pictures. Furthermore, those patients with the water and vegetation
views were able to transition from strong pain medication to moderate pain
medication more quickly than the other groups.
Depression is a common mental disorder and the leading cause of disability
worldwide.14 Spending more time in nature can be a preventative way to
maintain mental health and proactively take charge of our physical wellbeing.
This is because research has shown that stress levels fall within minutes
of being in green spaces, particularly when active, such as walking,
gardening or cycling. Moreover, being in nature not only improves our
mood but also boosts self-esteem.15
BE A ROLE MODEL FOR OUR YOUTH
There are many additional reasons why we should be spending more time
outdoors. We are ruled by technology and our children are no different.
Screen addiction is real. The average Canadian youth spends seven hours
and 48 minutes a day in front of a screen.16 Note that this is the average,