Countdown To Earth Day: Shinrin-Yoku May Be Your Ticket to Wellness

Countdown To Earth Day: Shinrin-Yoku May Be Your Ticket to Wellness

  • The Kane County Board Energy And Environmental Committee, Kane County Division of Environmental and Water Resources and Kane County Connects are teaming up for a “Count Down to Earth Day” series celebrating the success stories and spotlighting the environmental challenges we face right here, right now in Kane County, IL. Today’s article is a prescription to get out and enjoy Kane County’s natural beauty. written by Barb McKittrick, environmental education manager for the Forest Preserve District of Kane County.

It’s become widely accepted that a routine of regular physical activity contributes significantly to improved health and a longer life. Who of hasn’t heard our doctor extol the advantages of weekly physical activity to promote good health and prevent disease?

Your next annual check-up might include another type of medical recommendation, though: a prescription to get out in nature.

There is a growing body of scientific literature that links time spent in nature with improvements in health and an increased sense of happiness. A recent article in the highly respected, peer- reviewed Nature journal Scientific Reports concludes that spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing.

The study finds that living in close proximity to green space is not required to reap this benefit; even folks living in highly urban environments that routinely travel a bit to surround themselves with nature report experiencing better health.

Enjoying the healthy rewards of spending time in nature does not necessarily mean running a marathon in your local forest preserve. While active recreation is generally valued for its ability to reduce obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes and to promote a host of other positive physical outcomes, research into shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”) suggests that simply being passively in a natural environment can provide a host of psycho-physiological benefits.

Shinrin-yoku is a term developed by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries to describe the Japanese practice of taking in the atmosphere of a forest through all of the senses. Data shows that a relaxing walk through a forest can help reduce and control stress by lowering cortisol levels, pulse rate, blood pressure, and sympathetic nerve activity.

With all of the therapeutic effects of time spent in nature, isn’t it great to know that we are literally surrounded by green space here in Kane County? We have over 100 forest preserves and every family lives within a few miles of at least one of them. Each of us had the opportunity to access nearby nature experiences, and these experiences are free for the taking!

You have the option of going for a ramble on your own or with a companion or, if you’d like, joining one of our Forest Preserve District naturalists for a guided hike in one of the preserves. We offer dozens of naturalist-led public programs every season, for families, children, and adults.

Programs specifically focused on nature-based wellness include monthly Nurtured by Nature hikes designed to nurture the mind, body, and spirit, and Treks with a Naturalist geared toward adults who enjoy invigorating hiking all year long.

Barb McKittrick is environmental education manager for the Forest Preserve District of Kane County.

Celebrate Earth Day with us at the Earth Day Birthday event from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. April 22, at Creek Bend Nature Center in LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve.

We’ll lead a campfire program about the history and impact of Earth Day and discuss ways we can help protect this Earth we all call home, then conclude the evening with an invigorating twilight birthday hike. Call 630-444-3190 or email programs@kaneforest.com to register.

How ever you choose to get out in nature, making it a regular part of your weekly routine may be just what the doctor ordered. Earth Day would be the perfect day to begin this new wellness prescription.

Here’s to your good health!

Forest Preserve District ‘Earth Day Birthday’ — April 22

The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, is credited with launching the modern environmental movement.

The Forest Preserve District of Kane County invites you to meet to carry on the legacy and celebrate the natural world. The campfire program will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 22, at Creek Bend Nature Center in LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve. The cost is $2 per person.

Discussion will center on the history and impact of Earth Day and the ways we can help protect this Earth we all call home. The evening will conclude with an invigorating twilight birthday hike!

Meet at Creek Bend Nature Center for an introduction prior to heading outdoors.

Advance registration is required. To register, call 630-444-3190 or email programs@kaneforest.com.

Read The 2021 Countdown to Earth Day Series!