Earth Day is here, and there is no better way to celebrate than to share our love of trees with you! Though we may often forget just how important trees are, the truth is trees are critical to our survival. Without them, life as we know it would collapse. There would be habitat loss, loss of biodiversity, significant changes to air quality, and irreversible impacts on agriculture. So, we want to tell you all about the health benefits of trees and how humans directly benefit from them!
Why Spending Time with Trees is Good for You
When we think about the benefits of trees, we may think about how they give us shade or provide homes to animals, but trees can also significantly impact our health and well-being! Check out all the awesome ways trees are passively helping us!
Exposure to Forests Can Boost Your Immune System
Did you know that there are several scientific studies that prove just being around trees can boost our immune systems? How cool is that! This occurs because plants naturally release a volatile organic compound called phytoncides into the air, which helps the plants protect themselves from pests. As we spend time around trees, we inhale these phytoncides compounds, which have been found to increase the activity of human Natural Killer Cells (NK cells). Natural Killer Cells are lymphocytes that are the first line of defense in our immune system – they help fight viruses and can even tumor cells.
A study in Japan found that a 3-day forest trip significantly increased Natural Killer Cell activity in participants. Those levels stayed elevated up to 30 days after the trip, compared to a control group that experienced no increase in NK cell activity.
Reduce Stress, Lower Blood Pressure, and Improve Your Mood
Research has found that people who live in areas with more tree canopy have lower rates of psychological distress and mental health issues. Interestingly, other green spaces such as open grassy areas do not produce the same effects, indicating that trees are key to this result. Additionally, spending time around trees can help reduce your blood pressure and lower your levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.
Improve Your Focus and Memory
A nationwide study found that exposure to outdoor green settings reduces ADHD symptoms in children and minimizes attention fatigue. Other research had similar results, with adults scoring better on a proofreading test after walking through the woods, versus adults who walked through towns.
Recover from Surgery Faster
Perhaps the most interesting effect on our list, trees can help patients recover from surgery faster! Studies show that patients who have a view of green spaces took fewer painkillers, had fewer postsurgical complications, and had shorter postoperative stays compared to those with no green views.
The Impact of Tree Loss on Human Health
The results of deforestation are devastating. Along with the impacts it has on wildlife, it also affects air quality levels. Trees minimize our exposure to air pollution, and it is estimated that this impact alone is valued at over 6.8 billion dollars! Moreover, we would also love all of the health benefits that we looked at earlier. One team decided to study the impact of tree loss from the Emerald Ash Borer on human mortality rates in the United States.
The Emerald Ash Borer
The emerald ash borer (EAB) has destroyed over 100 million ash trees in the USA. It is considered one of the most harmful pests to our trees. Aside from the obvious environmental consequences, it also has consequences for our health.
Across the 15 states in the study area, the Emerald Ash Borer was associated with an additional 6113 deaths related to illness of the lower respiratory system, and 15,080 cardiovascular-related deaths.The Relationship Between Trees and Human Health
We take EAB very seriously, so make sure your ash trees are protected.
How Trees Contribute to Your Yard’s Ecosystem
Trees provide tons of benefits to your yard! Trees help stabilize soil, preventing soil erosion and reducing stormwater runoff. They also provide necessary food and shelter for birds and small mammals. Even far down beneath tree roots, bugs rely on trees for survival. Other shade-tolerant plant species also rely on tree canopy for protection from sun exposure. Overall, trees diversify your yard’s unique terrestrial ecosystem!
Celebrate Earth Day with Our Favorite Trails in the DC Metro Area
We understand what it is like to be a busy working professional, it can be hard to plan time to take walks through a woody area to reap all these benefits. Luckily, we prepared a list of some of our favorite trails in the area for you to check out!
- Bull Run Occoquan Trail in Fairfax Station VA is pet-friendly and great for hiking or horseback riding!
- Rock Creek Park in DC has tons of trails of varying lengths, so you can pick whichever works best for you! If you are looking for a shorter hike, check out the Rapids Bridge hike or the Milkhouse Ford hike. For something more challenging, try the 7-mile hiking/biking loop!
- Great Falls Park also offers a variety of trails for different skill levels. Some have the added bonus of having historical significance for an enriching experience!
- Old Rag in Shenandoah National Park is beautifully scenic, making it the most popular hike in the national park!
This Earth Day, take a little time to show trees the love they deserve because we wouldn’t be able to live without them! Thanks to trees, we have cleaner air, diverse ecosystems, food, shelter, and so many health benefits! If you are looking for more ways to celebrate this Earth Day, check out our blog!