After a long, cold winter spent cooped up inside, spring is the perfect time to enjoy a dose of nature therapy.
Nature therapy is about intentionally making connections with your natural surroundings to improve your physical and mental health. In Japan, the practice of immersing yourself in nature is known as Shinrin-yoku, which translates to “forest bathing.”
During National Park Week every April, ParkRx Day celebrates the health benefits of spending time outdoors. For example, did you know when you breathe in a chemical that trees release, it’s been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and improve immunity?
We don’t need to go far to get outdoors in Philadelphia and get #FearlessFit during National Park Week or any day of the year. Write yourself a prescription for well-being by scheduling a nature therapy session at these regional National Parks and recreation areas:
Five Places to Get Outdoors in Philadelphia and Beyond
- Valley Forge National Park: Step back in time as you hike, bike, and horseback ride along nearly 30 miles of trails in Valley Forge National Park, located just outside Philadelphia. You’ll pass by historic buildings, monuments, and memorials honoring the heroes of the Revolutionary War.
- Schuylkill River Valley: Paddle down the Schuylkill River in a kayak or canoe or walk or bike along the Schuylkill River Trail as it winds its way through Southeastern Pennsylvania’s rural, agricultural, suburban, urban, and industrial landscapes.
- Delaware Water Gap: Stretching across Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the Delaware Water Gap offers 100 miles of hiking and biking trails along streams, ridges, and mountaintops, including 27 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Canoeing and kayaking are also healthy ways to enjoy this area’s verdant beauty.
- Beaver Valley: Located just over the Pennsylvania border in Delaware, visit Beaver Valley in First State National Historical Park to hike, bike, or run on 18 miles of scenic trails through land that was originally granted to William Penn in the 1600s.
- New Jersey Pinelands: Established by Congress as the country’s first National Reserve, there are one million acres of farms, forests, and wetlands to explore in the New Jersey Pinelands. With more than 850 species of plants, you’ll be sure to get your fill of chlorophyll.
How to Nurture Yourself in Nature
The important thing to remember about nature therapy is that it’s not about creating extra stress in your life. You don’t need to have a specific goal, like hiking 20 miles, to reap the benefits of being outdoors.
It’s about the experience — paying attention to what you see, hear, smell, and feel around you. Follow these simple #FearlessFit tips from the American Heart Association to help you relax and nurture yourself in nature.