How Forests Positively Impact Human Health
Have you ever spent the whole day inside sitting in school or work feeling exhausted, but when you walk outside into the sun and fresh air, you instantly feel better? There’s an actual scientific term for this feeling! Biophilia is a word for human’s innate draw to the natural environment. However, nature and forests in particular do much more for human health than just improve our mood.
Here are five ways that forests can positively impact human health:
- Spending time outside improves mental health
There is scientific evidence which shows that exposure to forests can actually reduce human stress levels, help us recover from attentional fatigue and generally improve overall mood. Spending time in a green space has also been thought to mitigate the effects of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
- Taking a walk through the forest can benefit physical health
In addition to improving overall mental state, spending time in forests has been shown to have genuine physical health benefits. People say they feel less stressed in forests, but it turns out that this is linked to an actual reduction in the levels of a stress hormone called cortisol. This leads to quicker rehabilitation times for people who are ill or injured. Forest visits can also actually strengthen the human immune system, so people don’t get sick in the first place.
- Forests provide oxygen for our lungs
This one’s a no-brainer, but we can’t write about positive impacts of forests without mentioning it. Trees provide us with the oxygen we breathe! When they make glucose from sunlight, trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen as a by-product. While phytoplankton in the ocean takes the top slot for #1 oxygen producer on earth, trees are in close second place.
- Forests purify and provide clean water for our communities
This is a big one. More than 3,000 communities across the United States get their drinking water from watersheds located on National Forests and Grasslands. These landscapes catch copious amounts of runoff and allow it to infiltrate back into the groundwater. This feature of forests also helps to mitigate the impacts of flooding. The complex root system of the trees holds the soil in place, keeping excessive amounts of sediment from polluting our water.
- Trees help mitigate the effects of climate change
As was briefly mentioned before, forests produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that gets trapped in our atmosphere and compounds the warming of our planet, and forests can help combat that process. By absorbing the gas during photosynthesis and storing it in their wood, leaves and the soil, trees keep more carbon dioxide from ending up in the atmosphere where it traps heat. In addition to just CO2, trees also absorb other airborne pollutants like sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide.