A recent study showcases the power and importance of getting outside in nature. The study was conducted on individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Typically COPD is considered a degenerative condition, which people do not recover from. And though this study does not show a reversal of disease process, it does show that being in nature has a dramatic and significant effect on inflammation, and immune function.1
Eighteen individuals with COPD, living in China, were taken either to a forest or an urban setting and allowed to walk around for 3 hours – 1.5 hours in the morning and 1.5 hours in the afternoon. After this treatment, biomarkers revealed a significant decrease in inflammatory markers in the forest group, as well as downregulating the immune processes responsible for the progressive damage of COPD. This is quite interesting, because the affect of “forest bathing” in cancer studies has shown a significant increase in overall immune function, indicating that immersion in nature helps the body regulate its own needs, rather than promoting a specific function. The overall mood of forest participants was also better than the corresponding group.
More Trees, Please
This study, and others, support that getting out in nature does more for us than merely ease our minds and give us some much needed serenity. Our bodies have a physiologically positive response to being outside, especially in nature. And, it is likely that the serenity that nature seems to facilitate may be part of this physiological effect, though not the only part. Being around trees, and non-cemented ground, with fresh air may be allowing our bodies to connect with a rhythm which we’ve lost through our modern lives. By separating from the electrical and digital information that is constantly swarming around us, our bodies may be able to reset to a more primitive and restorative biorhythm, enhanced by the bioelectrical rhythm of the Earth. At least, this is one theory that has been proposed. Or perhaps the increase in oxygen that is present in nature helps our body “perk” up at a deeper level and enhance its overall function.
Gettin’ Twiggy With It
Whatever the reason, getting out in nature is amazingly beneficial, not only to our mental state, but also our physical bodies. This week, try to take a walk in a park, visit the beach, or go hiking in the mountains. Your body will thank you.
- Jia BB, Yang ZX, Mao GX, et al. Health effect of forest bathing trip on elderly patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Biomed Environ Sci. 2016;29(3):212-218
Node Smith, associate editor for NDNR, is a fifth year naturopathic medical student at NUNM, where he has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine amongst the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend campout where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Three years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.