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Evidence-Based Nature Therapy: Advances in Physiological Evaluation

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2017) | Viewed by 152044

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences, Chiba University, 6-2-1 Kashiwa-no-ha, Kashiwa City 277-0882, Chiba Prefecture, Japan
Interests: sustainable nature therapy; physiological anthropology; relaxation; preventive medical effects; empirical evidence; physiological data
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

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Guest Editor
Gakuendai 1-1, Kahoku-city, Ishikawa 929-1212, Japan
Interests: Physiological Anthropology; Nature Therapy; Individual Variation; Heart Rate Variability
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

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Guest Editor
1. Department of Systems Biotechnology, Konkuk University, Seoul 05029, Republic of Korea
2. Department of Bio and Healing Convergence at Graduate School, Konkuk University, Seoul 05029, Republic of Korea
Interests: horticultural therapy; urban agriculture; green care
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences, Chiba University, 6-2-1 Kashiwa-no-ha, Kashiwa City, Chiba Prefecture 277-0882, Japan
Interests: nature therapy; physiological evaluation; individual difference
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Humans have lived in nature for approximately seven million years. Our bodies are made to adapt to a natural environment. When we are exposed to the natural environment in a rapidly urbanizing world, our bodies go back to how they should be. It is empirically known that stimulation by forests, parks, gardens, wooden materials, flowers, etc. relaxes humans, particularly those under stress.

A nature therapy study, which is a questionnaire-based research, has been previously conducted. Methods for evaluating physiological relaxation effects based on brain activity, autonomic nervous activity, endocrine activity, immune activity, etc. are constantly being refined. Furthermore, a stack of physiological data has been accumulating.

The aim of this Special Issue is to scientifically elucidate the preventive medical effects of nature therapy. Therefore, evidence-based studies of physiological evaluation related to nature therapy on humans will be highlighted.

Prof. Dr. Yoshifumi Miyazaki
Prof. Dr. Hiromitsu Kobayashi
Prof. Dr. Sin-Ae Park
Dr. Chorong Song
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2500 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • nature therapy
  • physiological effects on human
  • stress reduction in humans
  • preventive medical effects
  • nature therapy program
  • forest therapy
  • park therapy
  • horticulture therapy
  • wooden material therapy
  • flower therapy

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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11 pages, 2371 KiB  
Article
Physiological Effects of Visual Stimulation with Forest Imagery
by Chorong Song, Harumi Ikei and Yoshifumi Miyazaki
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15(2), 213; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15020213 - 26 Jan 2018
Cited by 68 | Viewed by 8972
Abstract
This study was aimed to clarify the physiological effects of visual stimulation using forest imagery on activity of the brain and autonomic nervous system. Seventeen female university students (mean age, 21.1 ± 1.0 years) participated in the study. As an indicator of brain [...] Read more.
This study was aimed to clarify the physiological effects of visual stimulation using forest imagery on activity of the brain and autonomic nervous system. Seventeen female university students (mean age, 21.1 ± 1.0 years) participated in the study. As an indicator of brain activity, oxyhemoglobin (oxy-Hb) concentrations were measured in the left and right prefrontal cortex using near-infrared time-resolved spectroscopy. Heart rate variability (HRV) was used as an indicator of autonomic nervous activity. The high-frequency (HF) component of HRV, which reflected parasympathetic nervous activity, and the ratio of low-frequency (LF) and high-frequency components (LF/HF), which reflected sympathetic nervous activity, were measured. Forest and city (control) images were used as visual stimuli using a large plasma display window. After sitting at rest viewing a gray background for 60 s, participants viewed two images for 90 s. During rest and visual stimulation, HRV and oxy-Hb concentration in the prefrontal cortex were continuously measured. Immediately thereafter, subjective evaluation of feelings was performed using a modified semantic differential (SD) method. The results showed that visual stimulation with forest imagery induced (1) a significant decrease in oxy-Hb concentrations in the right prefrontal cortex and (2) a significant increase in perceptions of feeling “comfortable,” “relaxed,” and “natural.” Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evidence-Based Nature Therapy: Advances in Physiological Evaluation)
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2425 KiB  
Article
Comparison of Physiological and Psychological Relaxation Using Measurements of Heart Rate Variability, Prefrontal Cortex Activity, and Subjective Indexes after Completing Tasks with and without Foliage Plants
by Sin-Ae Park, Chorong Song, Yun-Ah Oh, Yoshifumi Miyazaki and Ki-Cheol Son
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(9), 1087; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14091087 - 20 Sep 2017
Cited by 47 | Viewed by 7186
Abstract
The objective of this study was to compare physiological and psychological relaxation by assessing heart rate variability (HRV), prefrontal cortex activity, and subjective indexes while subjects performed a task with and without foliage plants. In a crossover experimental design, 24 university students performed [...] Read more.
The objective of this study was to compare physiological and psychological relaxation by assessing heart rate variability (HRV), prefrontal cortex activity, and subjective indexes while subjects performed a task with and without foliage plants. In a crossover experimental design, 24 university students performed a task transferring pots with and without a foliage plant for 3 min. HRV and oxyhemoglobin (oxy-Hb) concentration in the prefrontal cortex were continuously measured. Immediately thereafter, subjective evaluation of emotions was performed using a modified semantic differential (SD) method and a profile of mood state questionnaire (POMS). Results showed that the natural logarithmic (ln) ratio of low frequency/high frequency, as an estimate of sympathetic nerve activity, was significantly lower while performing the task with foliage plants for the average 3 min measurement interval. Oxy-Hb concentration in the left prefrontal cortex showed a tendency to decrease in the 2–3 min interval in the task with foliage plants compared to the task without plants. Moreover, significant psychological relaxation according to POMS score and SD was demonstrated when the task involved foliage plants. In conclusion, the task involving foliage plants led to more physiological and psychological relaxation compared with the task without foliage plants. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evidence-Based Nature Therapy: Advances in Physiological Evaluation)
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706 KiB  
Article
Population-Based Study on the Effect of a Forest Environment on Salivary Cortisol Concentration
by Hiromitsu Kobayashi, Chorong Song, Harumi Ikei, Bum-Jin Park, Juyoung Lee, Takahide Kagawa and Yoshifumi Miyazaki
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(8), 931; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14080931 - 18 Aug 2017
Cited by 33 | Viewed by 6533
Abstract
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of a forest environment on salivary cortisol concentration, particularly on the characteristics of its distribution. The participants were 348 young male subjects. The experimental sites were 34 forests and 34 urban areas across [...] Read more.
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of a forest environment on salivary cortisol concentration, particularly on the characteristics of its distribution. The participants were 348 young male subjects. The experimental sites were 34 forests and 34 urban areas across Japan. The subjects viewed the landscape (forest or urban environment) for a period of 15 min while sitting in a chair. Saliva was sampled from the participants at the end of this 15-min period and then analyzed for cortisol concentration. Differences in the skewness and kurtosis of the distributions between the two environments were tested by performing a permutation test. The cortisol concentrations exhibited larger skewness (0.76) and kurtosis (3.23) in a forest environment than in an urban environment (skewness = 0.49; kurtosis = 2.47), and these differences were statistically significant. The cortisol distribution exhibited a more peaked and longer right-tailed curve in a forest environment than in an urban environment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evidence-Based Nature Therapy: Advances in Physiological Evaluation)
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2676 KiB  
Article
Effects of Short Forest Bathing Program on Autonomic Nervous System Activity and Mood States in Middle-Aged and Elderly Individuals
by Chia-Pin Yu, Chia-Min Lin, Ming-Jer Tsai, Yu-Chieh Tsai and Chun-Yu Chen
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(8), 897; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14080897 - 9 Aug 2017
Cited by 131 | Viewed by 15127
Abstract
The present study investigated changes in autonomic nervous system activity and emotions after a short (2 h) forest bathing program in the Xitou Nature Education Area (XNEA), Taiwan. One hundred and twenty-eight (60.0 ± 7.44 years) middle-aged and elderly participants were recruited. Physiological [...] Read more.
The present study investigated changes in autonomic nervous system activity and emotions after a short (2 h) forest bathing program in the Xitou Nature Education Area (XNEA), Taiwan. One hundred and twenty-eight (60.0 ± 7.44 years) middle-aged and elderly participants were recruited. Physiological responses, pulse rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, heart rate variability (HRV), and psychological indices were measured before and after the program. We observed that pulse rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure were significantly lower after the program, which indicated physiological benefits from stress recovery. The Profile of Mood States negative mood subscale scores of “tension-anxiety”, “anger-hostility”, “fatigue-inertia”, “depression-dejection”, and “confusion-bewilderment” were significantly lower, whereas the positive mood subscale score of “vigor-activity” was higher. Furthermore, participants exhibited significantly lower anxiety levels according to the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. However, changes in sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve activity were nonsignificant. Our study determined that the short forest bathing program is a promising therapeutic method for enhancing heart rate and blood pressure functions as well as an effective psychological relaxation strategy for middle-aged and elderly individuals. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evidence-Based Nature Therapy: Advances in Physiological Evaluation)
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2670 KiB  
Article
Physiological Effects of Touching Wood
by Harumi Ikei, Chorong Song and Yoshifumi Miyazaki
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(7), 801; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14070801 - 18 Jul 2017
Cited by 43 | Viewed by 8493
Abstract
This study aimed to clarify the physiological effects of touching wood with the palm, in comparison with touching other materials on brain activity and autonomic nervous activity. Eighteen female university students (mean age, 21.7  ±  1.6 years) participated in the study. As an [...] Read more.
This study aimed to clarify the physiological effects of touching wood with the palm, in comparison with touching other materials on brain activity and autonomic nervous activity. Eighteen female university students (mean age, 21.7  ±  1.6 years) participated in the study. As an indicator of brain activity, oxyhemoglobin (oxy-Hb) concentrations were measured in the left/right prefrontal cortex using near-infrared time-resolved spectroscopy. Heart rate variability (HRV) was used as an indicator of autonomic nervous activity. The high-frequency (HF) component of HRV, which reflected parasympathetic nervous activity, and the low-frequency (LF)/HF ratio, which reflected sympathetic nervous activity, were measured. Plates of uncoated white oak, marble, tile, and stainless steel were used as tactile stimuli. After sitting at rest with their eyes closed, participants touched the materials for 90 s. As a result, tactile stimulation with white oak significantly (1) decreased the oxy-Hb concentration in the left/right prefrontal cortex relative to marble, tile, and stainless steel and (2) increased ln(HF)-reflected parasympathetic nervous activity relative to marble and stainless steel. In conclusion, our study revealed that touching wood with the palm calms prefrontal cortex activity and induces parasympathetic nervous activity more than other materials, thereby inducing physiological relaxation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evidence-Based Nature Therapy: Advances in Physiological Evaluation)
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2948 KiB  
Article
Physiological Effects of Touching Coated Wood
by Harumi Ikei, Chorong Song and Yoshifumi Miyazaki
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(7), 773; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14070773 - 13 Jul 2017
Cited by 29 | Viewed by 6097
Abstract
This study examined the physiological effects of touching wood with various coating with the palm of the hand on brain activity and autonomic nervous activity. Participants were 18 female university students (mean age, 21.7 ± 1.6 years). As an indicator of brain activity, [...] Read more.
This study examined the physiological effects of touching wood with various coating with the palm of the hand on brain activity and autonomic nervous activity. Participants were 18 female university students (mean age, 21.7 ± 1.6 years). As an indicator of brain activity, oxyhemoglobin concentrations were measured in the left and right prefrontal cortices using near-infrared time-resolved spectroscopy. Heart rate variability (HRV) and heart rate were used as indicators of autonomic nervous activity. The high-frequency (HF) component of HRV, which reflects parasympathetic nervous activity, and the low-frequency (LF)/HF ratio, which reflects sympathetic nervous activity, were measured. Plates of uncoated, oil-finished, vitreous-finished, urethane-finished, and mirror-finished white oak wood were used as tactile stimuli. After sitting at rest with their eyes closed for 60 s, participants touched the stimuli with their palm for 90 s each. The results indicated that tactile stimulation with uncoated wood calmed prefrontal cortex activity (vs. urethane finish and mirror finish), increased parasympathetic nervous activity (vs. vitreous finish, urethane finish, and mirror finish), and decreased heart rate (vs. mirror finish), demonstrating a physiological relaxation effect. Further, tactile stimulation with oil- and vitreous-finished wood calmed left prefrontal cortex activity and decreased heart rate relative to mirror-finished wood. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evidence-Based Nature Therapy: Advances in Physiological Evaluation)
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872 KiB  
Article
Physical and Emotional Benefits of Different Exercise Environments Designed for Treadmill Running
by Hsiao-Pu Yeh, Joseph A. Stone, Sarah M. Churchill, Eric Brymer and Keith Davids
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(7), 752; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14070752 - 11 Jul 2017
Cited by 27 | Viewed by 11894
Abstract
(1) Background: Green physical activity promotes physical health and mental wellbeing and interesting questions concern effects of this information on designing indoor exercise environments. This study examined the physical and emotional effects of different nature-based environments designed for indoor treadmill running; (2) Methods: [...] Read more.
(1) Background: Green physical activity promotes physical health and mental wellbeing and interesting questions concern effects of this information on designing indoor exercise environments. This study examined the physical and emotional effects of different nature-based environments designed for indoor treadmill running; (2) Methods: In a counterbalanced experimental design, 30 participants performed three, twenty-minute treadmill runs at a self-selected pace while viewing either a static nature image, a dynamic nature image or self-selected entertainment. Distance ran, heart rate (HR) and five pre-and post-exercise emotional states were measured; (3) Results: Participants ran farther, and with higher HRs, with self-selected entertainment compared to the two nature-based environment designs. Participants attained lowered anger, dejection, anxiety and increased excitement post exercise in all of the designed environments. Happiness increased during the two nature-based environment designs compared with self-selected entertainment; (4) Conclusions: Self-selected entertainment encouraged greater physical performances whereas running in nature-based exercise environments elicited greater happiness immediately after running. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evidence-Based Nature Therapy: Advances in Physiological Evaluation)
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Review

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400 KiB  
Review
A Review of the Benefits of Nature Experiences: More Than Meets the Eye
by Lara S. Franco, Danielle F. Shanahan and Richard A. Fuller
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(8), 864; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14080864 - 1 Aug 2017
Cited by 213 | Viewed by 30241
Abstract
Evidence that experiences of nature can benefit people has accumulated rapidly. Yet perhaps because of the domination of the visual sense in humans, most research has focused on the visual aspects of nature experiences. However, humans are multisensory, and it seems likely that [...] Read more.
Evidence that experiences of nature can benefit people has accumulated rapidly. Yet perhaps because of the domination of the visual sense in humans, most research has focused on the visual aspects of nature experiences. However, humans are multisensory, and it seems likely that many benefits are delivered through the non-visual senses and these are potentially avenues through which a physiological mechanism could occur. Here we review the evidence around these lesser studied sensory pathways—through sound, smell, taste, touch, and three non-sensory pathways. Natural sounds and smells underpin experiences of nature for many people, and this may well be rooted in evolutionary psychology. Tactile experiences of nature, particularly beyond animal petting, are understudied yet potentially fundamentally important. Tastes of nature, through growing and consuming natural foods, have been linked with a range of health and well-being benefits. Beyond the five senses, evidence is emerging for other non-visual pathways for nature experiences to be effective. These include ingestion or inhalation of phytoncides, negative air ions and microbes. We conclude that (i) these non-visual avenues are potentially important for delivering benefits from nature experiences; (ii) the evidence base is relatively weak and often based on correlational studies; and (iii) deeper exploration of these sensory and non-sensory avenues is needed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evidence-Based Nature Therapy: Advances in Physiological Evaluation)
1278 KiB  
Review
Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) and Nature Therapy: A State-of-the-Art Review
by Margaret M. Hansen, Reo Jones and Kirsten Tocchini
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(8), 851; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14080851 - 28 Jul 2017
Cited by 368 | Viewed by 55997
Abstract
Background: Current literature supports the comprehensive health benefits of exposure to nature and green environments on human systems. The aim of this state-of-the-art review is to elucidate empirical research conducted on the physiological and psychological effects of Shinrin-Yoku (or Forest Bathing) in transcontinental [...] Read more.
Background: Current literature supports the comprehensive health benefits of exposure to nature and green environments on human systems. The aim of this state-of-the-art review is to elucidate empirical research conducted on the physiological and psychological effects of Shinrin-Yoku (or Forest Bathing) in transcontinental Japan and China. Furthermore, we aim to encourage healthcare professionals to conduct longitudinal research in Western cultures regarding the clinically therapeutic effects of Shinrin-Yoku and, for healthcare providers/students to consider practicing Shinrin-Yoku to decrease undue stress and potential burnout. Methods: A thorough review was conducted to identify research published with an initial open date range and then narrowing the collection to include papers published from 2007 to 2017. Electronic databases (PubMed, PubMed Central, CINAHL, PsycINFO and Scopus) and snowball references were used to cull papers that evaluated the use of Shinrin-Yoku for various populations in diverse settings. Results: From the 127 papers initially culled using the Boolean phrases: “Shinrin-yoku” AND/OR “forest bathing” AND/OR “nature therapy”, 64 studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in this summary review and then divided into “physiological,” “psychological,” “sensory metrics” and “frameworks” sub-groups. Conclusions: Human health benefits associated with the immersion in nature continue to be currently researched. Longitudinal research, conducted worldwide, is needed to produce new evidence of the relationships associated with Shinrin-Yoku and clinical therapeutic effects. Nature therapy as a health-promotion method and potential universal health model is implicated for the reduction of reported modern-day “stress-state” and “technostress.”. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evidence-Based Nature Therapy: Advances in Physiological Evaluation)
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