Forest and health

Why forests are so good for us

When we spend time in forests we instantly feel better in our bodies and minds. We can relax, empty our heads and replenish our energy in the silence of nature. Here we can find rest, even when doing sport. We aren't just imagining that we feel better from being in forests. Scientists have been conducting studies on the effects of forests on our health since the 1980s.

Amazing facts about forests and our health

Whether we go there to walk, rest or do sport - spending time in the woods is good for us. We can feel for ourselves in our bodies and souls what studies have shown for more than two decades: immersing ourselves in the beautiful freshness of the forest, with its colours and smells, lifts our spirits and grounds us. The positive health effects have been scientifically proven. Going to forests lowers our blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate and muscle tension, and also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Did you know that...

  • A study estimates that the recreational benefits of all Swiss woods and forests for the Swiss to be two to four billion francs per year.
  • In the summer, more than half of Swiss population spends some time in wood and forests at least once a week, for an average of 90 minutes.
  • Around 40% of our drinking water comes from forests.
  • Swiss woods and forests store over one million tonnes of CO2 every year.
  • More than 80 sports and leisure activities exist in Swiss forests.
  • People who spend time in forests produce more natural killer cells. These are the immune system’s defence units that fight germs and potential tumour cells.

Be inspired by the following ideas and benefit from the green health and leisure oasis right on our doorsteps.

Forest bathing – more than just a fad

Forest bathing – or Shinrin Yoku in Japanese – is gaining importance scientifically. Shinrin Yoku is now even a research strand at the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo. But what is forest bathing and what are its effects?

Forest bathing is about being conscious and mindful in the woods, focusing on absorbing the forest atmosphere and the close contact with nature. Forest bathing is great for many reasons: it makes us slow down, helps us gain new energy and zest for life, and has an positive overall effect on our mental and physical wellbeing. This is also due to terpenes, messenger substances produced by trees. Terpenes are organic substances and oils that are inhaled and have a positive effect on the body.

Brain researchers have discovered that our parasympathetic nervous system is particularly active when we are in the woods. This helps us relax and reduces stress, which also has a positive effect on the quality of our sleep. Forest bathing is excellent for preventing burnout and it improves our ability to concentrate and our motivation. Although forest bathing can't replace medical treatment, it has been found to speed up healing.

Forest exercise is doubly effective

The combination of woods and exercise is doubly effective. Jogging on the soft ground in the forest is much easier on the joints than on concrete, and the uneven ground helps improve balance and agility. If you want to combine running and strength training you can follow a fitness trail. There are 15 stations with a choice of 43 exercises. You can find something for every age and fitness level, and the trails are also suitable for families. If you don’t want to or can’t jog, you can walk briskly between the exercise stations.

If you prefer something slightly more relaxing, you can walk or hike through the forest. Escape daily life, surrender yourself to nature, consciously listen to the birds twittering and the leaves rustling, and deeply breathe in the delicious forest scents to completely unwind while walking or hiking.

You can find many beautiful forest walk and forest hike suggestions on (in German), for example.

Find out more now

Experience the forest with all five senses

Practise simple yet effective physical exercises and mindfulness routines to harmonise your body and mind. Since they don't generally require any equipment, the exercises are easy to incorporate into your daily routine, either indoors or out in the forest. Here are some exercises you can try out:

Find a comfortable bench or lay a blanket in a quiet spot under the trees. Sit upright. Try to focus on your breathing, for example by counting your inhales and exhales. If other thoughts come up, don't judge them, just stay focused on your breathing. Do this exercise for a few minutes.
Close your eyes and imagine inwardly that you're moving slowly through the landscape. Now open your eyes briefly and imagine that you're taking a snapshot of the moment with your eyes. This way you can concentrate on the images that you snap with your eyes, so to speak, rather than on any thoughts that may be bothering you.

This exercise is designed to get you to mentally scan the entire body. Lie on your back and concentrate on your breathing. Direct your attention first to the toes, then the feet, moving gradually up the body to the top of the head.

Mindfulness exercises with energy coach Stefanie Schaad

Find out how to stop your thoughts going round, train yourself to be more composed and charge your batteries in the morning. Energy coach Stefanie Schaad's simple exercises, which she demonstrates in the videos below, are best done somewhere quiet like the woods.

Mental protective gear for peace in everyday life
Hectic moments in everyday life can quickly throw us off balance. Energy coach Stefanie shows you a simple mindfulness exercise to help you keep calm in stressful situations.
Energy for the whole day: it's easy!
This ritual, demonstrated by energy coach Stefanie Schaad, will help you charge your batteries in the morning and feel more energised during the day.

Fully in the here and now
With this three-step energy check, Stefanie Schaad helps you to consciously let go of hectic thoughts and stress and give your body the peace it needs.

You can find more videos as well as tips and challenges for a balanced and healthy lifestyle in the BENEVITA app, the digital health coach and bonus programme.

Physical exercises with fitness and health guru Dave Dollé

Exercise gets your brain cells all fired up, and can be done just as well outdoors or indoors. Personal trainer Dave Dollé shows you how to get your body and mind going with planks – an effective exercise for working your core.

Standing like a tree – mindfulness and acceptance training and whole body relaxation

This meditation, also known as medical mindfulness interoception (Achtsamkeits-Interozeption® ), can be easily practised in the midst of nature. A dry, quiet, warm place is ideal. It's a good idea to wear loose clothing suitable for the weather conditions (for example, a light tracksuit) so that you don’t get distracted. Now you can fully concentrate on your inner perceptions. To start with it's a good idea to get a qualified relaxation specialist to guide you. After this you can practise interoception on your own. You can find out more below.

Interoception is a meditation method originating from ancient Taoist Chinese culture and which has been developed over several thousand years. Originally known as the Hun Yuan Zhuang method (by Master Wang Anping *1938), the technical term, «interoception» was used to make mindfulness meditation accessible and understandable in terms of Western medicine.

«Medical» shows that it is a standardised procedure whose effects are verifiable and measurable.

«Mindfulness» means attentive, kind, non-judgemental awareness of physical and mental feelings in the present moment.

«Interoception» describes the awareness of feelings from within the body.

So it is a mindful and accepting awareness of the peace and stillness within yourself. Interoception is so special because it's something you can do yourself.

The basic posture people usually adopt is «standing like a tree trunk» with the arms hugging (Hun Yuan) the body around the sternum.

Using a special technique, which should ideally be taught by a relaxation specialist, you can release the muscles. The medical state of relaxation arises through the constant perception of the relaxation as it is occurring. This is perceived throughout the body over a protracted period and can be extended and expanded by the person doing the exercise. This medical state of relaxation has proven health-promoting effects.

Regularly practising mindfulness meditation strengthens and improves your concentration and memory. It helps reduce your stress levels through its influence on your stress hormones.

This method also reduces tension and restlessness and negative or excessive thoughts and emotions.
To learn the method it’s best to get a qualified relaxation specialist to guide you at the start. After this you can practise interoception on your own.

Another tip: why don’t you start doing your qigong, yoga or tai chi exercises into the forest? You’re guaranteed to find a spot where you won’t be disturbed as you do it.

SWICA supports over 100 courses and treatments

Up to 1'300 francs* for preventive services each year

The pressures and strains of everyday life can take a toll on us. That’s why it’s important to lead a balanced life and boost your sense of wellbeing. This is why SWICA offers its supplementary insurance customers up to 1'300 francs* each year (*find out more) for a wide range of relaxation, wellbeing and exercise activities such as qigong, yoga, tai chi, personal trainers, fitness, mindfulness courses and much more. By the way, supplementary insurance is a valuable add-on to your basic insurance in every case, and you can purchase a plan from SWICA at any time, regardless of which insurer currently provides your basic insurance.

Go to the supplementary insurance plans

SWICA – Because health is everything

Being active pays off. SWICA – unlike many other health insurance companies – supports your personal commitment through a wide range of activities and offers relating to health promotion and preventive healthcare. Whether it's yoga, tai chi, fitness classes, swimming lessons, breathing exercises, personal training, nutritional advice, mindfulness training, tennis or one of the other available options, you enjoy attractive contributions of up to 1'300 francs* per year from the COMPLETA FORTE, COMPLETA PRAEVENTA and OPTIMA supplementary insurance plans (*see detailed information).

Incidentally, supplementary insurance always provides valuable additional benefits above and beyond those available under basic insurance. It can be taken out with SWICA at any time, regardless of which insurer currently provides your basic insurance.


Personal consultation

Would you like more information or a personal consultation? SWICA Client Services would be happy to assist. Call us on 0800 80 90 80 or send us a message using the contact form below.

Request a personal consultation