After having enforced rest from being unwell and then looking after my elderly dad who has had several falls recently, I was getting a little frustrated at my own lack of fitness, while on my recent family holiday. We are neither couch potatoes nor adrenaline junkies, but somewhere in between, so it was on a search for a pond to swim in that I remembered Shinrin-yoku - also known as forest therapy or forest bathing.
There is something a little magical about being in the woods and it feels exactly what I need right now!
A 2007 article published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology (Vol. 26 #2) showed that leisurely walking reliably and predictably lowers cortisol levels. (Which is why running can be counter productive when we are stressed, as moderate to high intensity aerobic exercise elevates cortisol - read stress - and also reduces fat burning - but that's another story....)
This cortisol lowering effect was magnified when the walking took place in a nature setting. In Japan Shinrin-yoku has been well known for some decades now and is used for preventative healthcare and healing.