Getting out into a forest can be cheap, fun and beautiful at this time of year. And the health benefits can be amazing
If we can find our way to a forest this autumn, we might find it brings a surprising (and cheap) boost to our health.
There’s a lot of research that shows being in nature benefits out mental health.
But what we might not know is that there are plenty of wins for our physical health too.
Being in green spaces or woodland may help reduce our risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis (weaker bones).
And of course, walking can help us improve our fitness and mobility.
In a town? No problem
The best thing is that we don’t have to get ourselves to a remote forest or woodland to feel the benefits.
Green spaces anywhere, including parks and woodland in the middle of towns and cities, can have the same effect.
The NHS has already cottoned on to this and is working to improve green spaces around its sites for both patients and staff.
And GPs can prescribe forest activities if there’s something set up in our area. It’s part of a wider move called ‘social prescribing‘. (This doesn’t have to involve forests – it can be any activity that our GP thinks could improve our health).
Diabetes and anxiety
At a programme at Chopwell Wood, near Newcastle, people have been taking part in free activities like trail walking, archery, cycling and volunteering. (They also tried something called ‘forest bathing’, which is simply the act of relaxing, being calm and enjoying the feeling of being among trees.)
Lucy Brenkley, who organises the programme, said one regular began to manage her diabetes. And another got over her anxiety about being around other people.
If we fancy getting out into some green space but aren’t sure how to start there are some resources that can help.