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Also below the calendar there is our article of the quarter written by Al McSweeney.
WE ARE OFFERING PROGRAMS AGAIN BUT DUE TO COVID19 YOU MUST PREREGISTER IN ORDER TO PARTICIPATE! NO WALK INS THE DAY OF THE PROGRAM. SOCIAL DISTANCING IS REQUIRED AND MASKS ARE RECOMMENDED.
FIREWORKS OF ANY KIND ARE STRICTLY PROHIBITED IN ANY ALLEN COUNTY PARK!
Thanks to our guest writer this quarter, Al McSweeney. Here is his article.
Get Outside and Get Healthy!
By Al McSweeney, Allen County Parks volunteer
Have you ever had an opportunity to take a leisurely walk through a group of trees, a woods, or a forest? So long as you know where you are, and you feel safe, it can be a pleasant experience.
Since the 1980s the Japanese have been documenting physical and mental benefits of spending time in forests. They refer to the process as Shinrin-yoku: ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’, or ‘forest bathing”.
It is one thing to ‘feel good’ about going on a hike through a wooded area. But it is more impressive to evaluate the benefits by measuring chemical and physical changes in the human body. “Researchers, primarily in Japan and South Korea, have established a rich body of scientific literature about the health benefits of spending time under the canopy of a living forest.”
The material in this article is based on Chapter 6 in a book titled “Brain Wash” by David Perlmutter M.D., Austin Perlmutter M.D., with Kristin Loberg. Dr David Perlmutter is a board-certified neurologist and fellow of the American College of Nutrition.
Exposure to nature has been shown to increase human immune-cell populations. This has been demonstrated by measurements on blood and urine of nurses who spent three days and two nights in a forest. “These results indicate that the nurses got a boost to their immune systems and a lowered level of sympathetic nervous system activation.”
Scientists have studied effects on the brain of viewing either an urban scene or a natural landscape. This was done by imaging the brain activity with functional MRI (fMRI) to see which parts were more active. When viewing urban scenes, the amygdala lit up more, indicating more stress than experienced while viewing a natural landscape.
An experiment done in 2014 involved 51 preteens spending five days at an overnight nature camp without TV, mobile phones, or computers. At the same time, 54 other preteens spent their time in town with the usual devices. Both groups were later shown similar pictures of people and asked to estimate the emotional states of people shown in the pictures. Preteens who spent the time without digital media were significantly better at recognizing emotional clues in others.
Natural settings apparently have anti-inflammatory effects that may help keep the prefrontal cortex healthy. A 2012 test measured differences in blood markers of stress and inflammation among college men in either woods or a city. Lab work done before the experiment showed no significant differences in the levels of stress markers and inflammation between the two groups. After two nights in either the woods or in the city the results were significantly different. Levels of inflammatory markers TNF alpha and interleukin 6 were reduced in the woods group compared to the city group. Levels of endothelin 1, a marker of inflammation in vascular diseases was also lower in the woods group, as were levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is implicated in severing the connection between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala.
A 2012 study tested 56 men and women in creative problem solving both before, and after, a four-day nature hike. Four days of immersion in nature, and the corresponding disconnect from multimedia and technology, increased performance [on problem-solving tasks that require creativity] by 50%.
Nature heals through an array of mechanisms that are chemical (by decreasing stress hormones and inflammation) and neurological (by improving attention and memory function).
In the complex human body, signals are sent and received between the brain and other organs. Some signals are transmitted by electrical signals through nerves. Others are sent by way of hormones in the blood. These effects are difficult to measure precisely and repeatably. It is impressive to see the many experiments and results obtained so far.
This chapter in Dr. Perlmutter’s book indicates that many benefits can be had by spending time outside, in Allen County Parks and other natural settings.