Aroma of woodlands promotes well-being, study shows

Aroma of woodlands promotes well-being, study shows

A healthy lifestyle involves more than a good diet and fit muscles. Sometimes you have to exercise your nose.

British researchers decided to test the fragrance of nature on the noses of nearly 200 people who were asked to wander woodlands for a short time during the four seasons. They visited Sherwood Forest, among other locales.

Participants reported a range of emotions after their brief sojourn. For many, the smells of the woods evoked memories of childhood. The aroma of fallen leaves, for example, might transport someone back to carefree days free of the burdens of adulthood.

Researchers found the experiment heightened several types of well-being, with relaxation, comfort and rejuvenation mentioned most frequently. And even the absence of odors was viewed positively by some. Investigators note that folks living in a city were comforted to be out in the fresh air without the malodorous fumes of the urban landscape assaulting nostrils.

This might seem like an idle experiment. But the pleasant emotions that arise from a nature walk have a real impact on health. Scientists say they can dampen stress and lower levels of a stress hormone that can lead over time to heart disease, hypertension and even cognitive decline.

Researchers don’t pretend that the redolence [reh-duh-luhns] of a woodland walk is a cure-all. Diet and regular exercise, of course, have a greater impact on physical well-being. But scientists say greater efforts by medical practitioners and public health policymakers to promote this aromatic therapy can have an outsized impact on the population as a whole.

So, take a hike. And don’t forget the mosquito spray.

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