Designing Health Promoting Trails: Lessons from Japan

This webpage is a digital representation of the poster presented at the BC Community Forestry Association Conference in Kamloops, British Columbia, from June 6 to 9, 2023. In this digital format, you can explore the content, findings, and insights presented in the poster. Please browse the sections below to learn more about the research and access references.

Presenter: Tara L. Brown Advisor: Dr. John Innes
Dept. of Forest Resources Management, Faculty of Forestry, The University of British Columbia, 2424 Main Mall, Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1Z4


This research explores the implications of Japan’s 63 Forest Therapy bases for designing health-promoting trails in BC’s forests. It provides practical guidance to forest planners and managers, drawing insights from evidence-based health research studies and a clinical trial in Metro Vancouver. The poster highlights the methodology, key trail design considerations, and expected community well-being benefits.


Urban environments pose significant mental and physical health challenges due to limited access to nature, pollution, traffic, noise, and the dominance of built environments (1-4). Canada spends one-third of its healthcare budget addressing chronic and non-communicable diseases associated with urbanization, including mood and anxiety disorders (5). Hypertension affects a substantial portion of the population, with 25% of individuals aged 20 and over and 70% of those aged 65 and over diagnosed with this condition.

Estimates suggest that by 2050, 87% of Canadians will reside in large urban centers (6), making it increasingly crucial to address health issues related to urban living. Vancouver, characterized by high population density and decreasing urban green spaces (7), exemplifies the complex health challenges urban areas face. However, community forests offer a unique opportunity to enhance health and well-being through nature-based activities. Inspired by Japan’s Forest Therapy bases (8-9), this study aims to provide practical guidance for designing health-promoting trails that integrate scientific research and real-world decision-making to promote community well-being and address the health challenges associated with urbanization.

Forest-based Interventions

This study explores the potential benefits of forest-based interventions, inspired by Japan’s shinrin-yoku, in designing health-promoting trails in BC’s forests.

Benefits of forest-based interventions:

  • Potential as a complementary treatment option for depression (10-11).
  • Physiological effects on blood pressure and heart rate (12-13).
  • Inhalation of phytoncides for pain relief and anti-inflammatory effects and influence on the immune system (14).
  • Cost-effective preventive medicine (for example, PaRx) (15).
  • Connection to pro-environmental behaviour (16).

Data Collection

Biological Indicators: Measured heart rate and blood pressure before and after each session.

Self-report Mood Surveys: Participants completed mood surveys before and after each session to record their psychological well-being and nature connectedness before.

Environmental Measurements: Evaluated thermal conditions, sound levels, light levels, and visual observations during each session.

Vegetation Surveys: Recorded plant distribution and diversity.

Thermal Environment

Data collection: Kestrel 5500 Weather Meter.

Recorded factors influencing psychological and physiological health outcomes: air temperature, humidity, mean radiant heat, atmospheric pressure, and wind speed.

Investigated the relationship between thermal conditions and participants’ perceived comfort and overall experience. For example, previous studies have shown Profile of Mood States scores associate Fatigue and Relative Humidity, Depression and Atmospheric Pressure.

Sound Levels

Data collection: Protmex MS6708 sound level meter.

Recorded sound levels and visual observations.

Integrated sound level measurements, observations, and psychological surveys to gain insights into the impact of the soundscape on participant experience. For example, previous studies have shown Profile of Mood States scores associate Anger and Sound Levels.

Visual Observations

Data collection: photometer (lux meter).

Recorded light levels in closed and open canopies.

Explored the role of natural light exposure on mood, cognition, and physical health. For example, previous studies have shown Profile of Mood States scores associate Anger and Relative Illumination.


In light of the negative health impacts associated with urban environments, forest-based interventions have shown promising results in improving mental and physical health outcomes, enhancing the connection to nature, and mitigating the stressors of urban living. By integrating the methodology from Japan’s Forest Therapy Trails and insights from the Metro Vancouver clinical trial, this research provides valuable insights into the potential benefits of forest environments for community well-being. Ongoing analysis and assessment of the remaining experimental work will continue to refine and inform these findings.


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