Forest is the most important part of our existence
Kranjska Gora, 19 September 2023 – Are people sufficiently aware of the potential of forests to improve our health and well-being? These and many other questions are being answered by experts from all over the world at the 5th International Congress “Forest and its potential for health”, hosted in the beautiful surroundings of Kranjska Gora from 18 to 20 September.
According to Dr Darija Cvikl, Chief Coordinator of the Organising Committee of the 5th International Congress “Forest and its Potential for Health” and Deputy Secretary of the Presidency of the International Society for Forest Therapy, it is no surprise that Slovenia, with its vast forests covering more than 60% of our territory, was named the world’s first green destination in 2016.
“In 2016, Slovenians were also the first practitioners of forest therapy. Our research work on therapeutic forest tourism in Slovenia started a year later. Among other things, two years ago we conducted a very important study right here in Kranjska Gora, the results of which confirmed the extremely positive effects of the forest on tourists, specifically on physiological (lowering stress hormone levels) and psychological (general well-being index) parameters,” explains Dr Cvikl.
The urgent need to support the practice of forest therapy with as much scientific research as possible is also emphasised by the Guest of Honour of the Congress, Prof. Horst Klinkmann, MD, PhD (Mult.), President of the International Society for Forest Therapy:
“We need to start recognising that the forest is the most important part of our existence, so the main goal of the World Forest Therapy Association is to support as much scientific research in this field as possible, as this is the only way that forest therapy can be accepted by the medical profession.”
Forests play a very important role in our lives, not only as a source of wood and natural resources, but also as a key element in the health and well-being of the population.
According to one of the foremost experts in this field, Dr Qing Li of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at Nippon Medical School in Japan, it has been scientifically proven that forest bathing, which can be very simply described as a practice where all five senses are activated through a peaceful walk through the forest (or other natural environment), has the following positive effects:
Forest bathing strengthens the immune system and acts as a cancer preventive.
Forest bathing lowers stress hormones.
Forest bathing improves sleep.
Forest bathing is a preventive measure against depression.
Forest bathing lowers blood pressure and heart rate and has a preventive effect on hypertension and heart disease.
Forest bathing can help speed up recovery and rehabilitation.
Forest bathing in urban parks have a beneficial effect on human health.
Forest bathing have a preventive effect on diseases associated with modern lifestyles.
“If people knew about all the positive effects of forest bathing, they would certainly practice it more often and more actively. That is why I think it is important to back up all its positive effects with scientific research, as this kind of data collection will help the general public to better understand the positive effects of the forest on our health and well-being. And I can say that Slovenia has beautiful forests and nature, so I am convinced that it has great potential in this area,” Dr Qing Li emphasises.
He is joined by Prof. Dr. Won Sop Shin, another of the foremost experts on forests and their impact on our health (a staff member of the Chungbuk National University, Korea, and President of the Korean Forest Therapy Forum):
“Forests serve a variety of functions, not only for tangible products but also for intangible services. The health functions provided by forests have been in use for a long time. But the rapid increase in urbanisation and the problems associated with modern lifestyles call for a greater emphasis on the health functions of forests. And in this respect, this congress offers invaluable opportunities to share experiences, knowledge and visions for the implementation of forest therapies in different fields in different countries around the world.“
Slovenia’s exceptional potential for forest-based therapeutic tourism
It is very pleasing that the attractiveness and potential of forests is being recognised by more and more people, and this congress is an excellent opportunity to promote Slovenia as a sustainable and innovative destination and its exceptional potential for the development of forest-based therapeutic tourism.
We can therefore say that the International Congress “Forest and its potential for health” will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression and contribute to the development of forest tourism in Slovenia, linking nature, science and sustainable tourism in a unique way.
Photo: Nik Bertoncelj