Effect of forest walking on autonomic nervous system activity in middle-aged hypertensive individuals: A pilot study

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Abstract

There has been increasing attention on the therapeutic effects of the forest environment. However, evidence-based research that clarifies the physiological effects of the forest environment on hypertensive individuals is lacking. This study provides scientific evidence suggesting that a brief forest walk affects autonomic nervous system activity in middle-aged hypertensive individuals. Twenty participants (58.0 ± 10.6 years) were instructed to walk predetermined courses in forest and urban environments (as control). Course length (17-min walk), walking speed, and energy expenditure were equal between the forest and urban environments to clarify the effects of each environment. Heart rate variability (HRV) and heart rate were used to quantify physiological responses. The modified semantic differential method and Profile of Mood States were used to determine psychological responses. The natural logarithm of the high-frequency component of HRV was significantly higher and heart rate was significantly lower when participants walked in the forest than when they walked in the urban environment. The questionnaire results indicated that, compared with the urban environment, walking in the forest increased “comfortable”, “relaxed”, “natural” and “vigorous” feelings and decreased “tension-anxiety,” “depression,” “anxiety-hostility,” “fatigue” and “confusion”. A brief walk in the forest elicited physiological and psychological relaxation effects on middle-aged hypertensive individuals.

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Song, C., Ikei, H., Kobayashi, M., Miura, T., Taue, M., Kagawa, T., … Miyazaki, Y. (2015). Effect of forest walking on autonomic nervous system activity in middle-aged hypertensive individuals: A pilot study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12(3), 2687–2699. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph120302687

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