20 Mar 2023

Blog: International Day of Forests

Today is International Day of Forests 2023! 

This year the United Nations global campaign is raising awareness of the links between forests and health. 

Hugh McNish, Scottish Forestry’s Access, Health and Recreation Policy Advisor, put down some quick thoughts on why woodlands are so important to improving our health.

Hugh McNish

Within the natural environment, trees and woodlands provide a range of specific health benefits; physical, mental and social in addition to those of greenspace more generally. At a physical level, trees provide shelter from the wind and rain and can help reduce noise. They can provide shade from the sun and they filter pollutants and air particulates.

There is an increasing body of evidence to support the view that greenspace and woodlands provide the ideal setting to promote health and physical activity. A large percentage of these benefits are derived from people becoming more physically active through activities like walking and cycling.

Woodlands have also been shown to help reduce the effects of stress and mental fatigue. Research published just last year reported that the annual mental health benefits associated with visits to the Scotland’s woodlands are estimated to be £26 million.

(Larbert Woods, managed by Forestry and Land Scotland, located next to Forth Valley Royal Hospital.)Larbert Woodlands

Woodlands provide an important venue for social activity. This can range from simple dog walking and picnics to organised events and activities. These provide opportunities for social interaction and can improve people’s relationship woodlands and build stronger and more resilient communities.

For children, woodlands offer rich opportunities for play and learning which are more active, challenging and diverse than other types of greenspace. This contact contributes to good health and wellbeing, and raises awareness of issues like climate change and sustainable development.

(Chief Forester Dr Helen McKay with children from Priorsford Primary School, Peebles.)
Priorsford 1

In summary, woodlands and greenspace have a key role to play in enriching people’s lives by improving social interaction and helping people become more active, try new activities, discover nature and cope better with stress and anxiety.

Further information on health and forests are available from:

Scottish Forestry - Woods for health

Green Exercise Partnership

Forest Research