Have you heard of an activity called “Forest baths”? We have discovered it recently and the truth has surprised us a lot for good, since it has great benefits for people who have had breast cancer. According to recent studies, two of its most striking effects are the strengthening of the immune system and the increase in the blood concentration of NK cells (from English "natural killer"), a type of white blood cell that contributes to the fight against infections and cancer.
Why these two effects? Well, to some volatile compounds, called phytoncides, that release the trees and the decrease in stress hormones that occur when we walk through the forest. Through inhalation, these volatile compounds pass into the blood to act directly on NK cells and there is also a reduction in stress hormones, responsible for inhibiting the natural NK activity of our body. Now, and what is even more interesting, is that according to the recently published studies these benefits are also given by the simple fact of observing or being in contact with all types of natural spaces, whether or not forest, including urban parks !
But how is a forest bath done? From what we have seen, there is no single way to perform this forest therapy. So it exists from the simplest option of taking a walk through a forest to an urban park when you have a moment, or joining a group with a guide and holding several sessions for several days. The most important thing is to walk slowly, stand and observe nature with your five senses.
Japan has been a pioneer in practicing this therapy and has promoted circuits throughout the country attended by its citizens in droves. The "Shirin-yoku", as this therapy is called there, has even become incorporated into its national health system. There are also countries that are currently building hospitals in forested areas because it has been observed that the speed of recovery in surgeries and treatments is increasing.
In any case, surely a good walk through the forest helps us catch forces after a chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery treatment that often leads to breast cancer. In the forest we can also perform our exercises to prevent lymphedema in the arm while breathing an air full of good smells.
Source: Health and Environment Observatory, Forest baths, a health proposal. DKV Institute of the Healthy life, ISGlobal. 2017