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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12(3), 2687-2699; doi:10.3390/ijerph120302687

Effect of Forest Walking on Autonomic Nervous System Activity in Middle-Aged Hypertensive Individuals: A Pilot Study

1
Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences, Chiba University, Kashiwa, Chiba 277-0882, Japan
2
Department of Hygiene and Public Health, Nippon Medical School, Bunkyo-Ku, Tokyo 113-8602, Japan
3
Agematsu Town Office Industry & Tourism Department, Kiso, Nagano 399-5601, Japan
4
Agematsu Town Office, Kiso, Nagano 399-5603, Japan
5
Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture 305-8687, Japan
6
Nagano Prefectural Kiso Hospital, Nagano 397-8555, Japan
7
Le Verseau Inc., Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 156-0051, Japan
These authors contributed equally to this work.
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Paul B. Tchounwou
Received: 20 November 2014 / Revised: 6 February 2015 / Accepted: 16 February 2015 / Published: 2 March 2015
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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. View Full-Text
Keywords: forest therapy; urban environment; walking; hypertension; middle-aged individuals; preventive medicine; heart rate variability; heart rate; semantic differential method; profile of mood state forest therapy; urban environment; walking; hypertension; middle-aged individuals; preventive medicine; heart rate variability; heart rate; semantic differential method; profile of mood state
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Song, C.; Ikei, H.; Kobayashi, M.; Miura, T.; Taue, M.; Kagawa, T.; Li, Q.; Kumeda, S.; Imai, M.; Miyazaki, Y. Effect of Forest Walking on Autonomic Nervous System Activity in Middle-Aged Hypertensive Individuals: A Pilot Study. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12, 2687-2699.

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