Cheltenham Science Festival Traditional Japanese therapy Shinrin-yoku should be free on the NHS, says Kate Humble

Cheltenham Science Festival Traditional Japanese therapy Shinrin-yoku should be free on the NHS, says Kate Humble

Cheltenham Science Festival

Cheltenham Science Festival Shinrin-yoku, the traditional Japanese therapy that inspired the Duchess of Cambridge’s woodland garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, should be available free on the NHS, says Springwatch presenter Kate Humble

  • Springwatch presenter Kate Humble wants Shinrin-yoku free on the NHS
  • The traditional Japanese therapy of ‘forest bathing’ helps with mental health
  • It was reportedly a point of inspiration for the Kate’s Chelsea woodland garden
  • 2010 Japanese study found being in a forest ‘lowered a person’s pulse’

By Victoria Allen Science Correspondent For The Daily Mail

Published: 02:09 BST, 6 June 2019 | Updated: 07:55 BST, 6 June 2019

Former Springwatch presenter Kate Humble has supported the idea of forest walks on the NHS, saying that they should be ‘first nature’ to humans but have been forgotten over time

It is the Japanese concept that inspired the Duchess of Cambridge‘s garden at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Now there are calls for shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest bathing’, to be prescribed on the NHS to ease the stresses of modern life.

The term simply means taking a walk in the woods, listening to birdsong, looking around and engaging with nature.

The Woodland Trust says forest bathing could help the one in four people at risk of mental health problems.

Experts say it lowers stress and blood pressure, and last year NHS Shetland became the first organisation to start prescribing nature walks to patients.

Shinrin-yoku was reportedly the inspiration for a woodland garden at Chelsea co-designed by the Duchess of Cambridge.

Speaking before the Cheltenham Science Festival, Stuart Dainton, head of innovation at the Woodland Trust, said: ‘We live increasingly complex lives. Pressures around social media are driving children into an ‘always on’ culture.

‘A simple walk in the woods without your phone can really help destress you. There’s a lot of evidence behind that.’

He added that prescribing shinrin-yoku ‘is a route to helping the nation destress’.

Forest bathing, inspired by ancient religious traditions, was introduced in Japan to promote wellbeing in the 1980s.

Shinrin-yoku was reportedly the inspiration for a woodland garden at Chelsea co-designed by the Duchess of Cambridge (pictured)

Its supporters include former Springwatch presenter Kate Humble, who spoke on the subject with Mr Dainton at the Cheltenham Science Festival.

Before the event, she said: ‘It does seem extraordinary that something that feels so natural to us – that should be literally second nature, or perhaps first nature to us – we’ve kind of forgotten and we need prescribed again.’

‘Social prescribing’ describes the use of non-medical activities such as exercise clubs and ballroom dancing classes to help patients and up to 1,000 ‘social prescribers’ have been recruited across England. But NHS Shetland is believed to be the first to prescribe trips into nature.

A Japanese study from 2010 concluded that being in a forest lowered people’s pulse, blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol (stock photo)

Mr Dainton said: ‘One in four of us are potentially going to suffer from mental health problems. Part of the solution is just getting outside and enjoying nature.’

A study by King’s College London last year found being outdoors, seeing trees and hearing birdsong were all linked to greater mental wellbeing.

A Japanese study from 2010 concluded that being in a forest lowered people’s pulse, blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

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