Outdoor Therapy Increases Immunity, Reduces Fatigue and Boosts Moods
Researchers from Japan’s Kyoto University have determined that outdoor therapy – including forest walking, gardening and yoga meditation – not only will increase well-being and quality of life: It will also strengthen the immune system.
The researchers tested 22 cancer patients for four months. The patients were given weekly sessions of four central protocols: They worked in the garden, planting seeds and caring for plants – termed horticultural therapy. They engaged in walking in the forest. They were engaged in yoga meditation exercises. And they attended weekly support group therapy sessions.
The researchers assessed the patients before and after the therapy using several assessments. Quality of life was assessed using the Short Form-36 Health Survey Questionnaire. Fatigue was assessed using the Cancer Fatigue Scale. Psychological moods and state of mind was assessed using the Profile of Mood States index and State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. Spiritual well-being was assessed using the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Spiritual. And their immune system was assessed through testing for natural killer cell (NK cells) activity.
The researchers found that the therapy significantly increased quality of life scores. They also found reduced cancer-related fatigue and increased functional well-being scores among the patients. The outdoor therapy also improved moods and emotions among the patients after the twelve week testing period.
And the researchers found the outdoor therapy increased natural killer cell activity among the patients.
Other research has shown the success of some of these measures. We showed how forest walking had heart benefits and quality of life benefits in this article.
Meditation has been found to relieve anxiety, depression and even pain. Researchers from St. Mary’s College found in a study of 28 cancer patients that mindfulness meditation reduced pain scores as well as depression and anxiety after only two weeks of meditation therapy – which included yoga postures, breathing and meditation.
Why is being outdoors so therapeutic?
Being outdoors has a number of benefits, ranging from sunshine to increased negative ions to better air quality. Nature’s colors also improve moods and wellness.
Nakau M, Imanishi J, Imanishi J, Watanabe S, Imanishi A, Baba T, Hirai K, Ito T, Chiba W, Morimoto Y. Spiritual care of cancer patients by integrated medicine in urban green space: a pilot study. Explore (NY). 2013 Mar-Apr;9(2):87-90. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2012.12.002.
Ando M, Morita T, Akechi T, Ito S, Tanaka M, Ifuku Y, Nakayama T. The efficacy of mindfulness-based meditation therapy on anxiety, depression, and spirituality in Japanese patients with cancer. J Palliat Med. 2009 Dec;12(12):1091-4. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2009.0143.