Psycho-Electrophysiological Benefits of Forest Therapies Focused on Qigong and Walking with Elderly Individuals

Author: Jiyune Yi1, Seul Gee Kim2, Taegyu Khil1, Minja Shin1, Jin-Hee You1, Sookja Jeon1, Gue Hong Park1, Ah Young Jeong1, Youngsuwn Lim1, Kahye Kim2, Jingun Kim1, Byunghoon Kang1, Jueun Lee1, Jeong Hwan Park2, Boncho Ku2, Jungmi Choi3, Wonseok Cha3, Hwa-Jin Lee4, Changseob Shin1, Wonsop Shin1, Jaeuk U Kim2
1 Department of Forest Therapy, Chungbuk National University, Cheonngju, Chungbuk 28644, Korea.
2 Future Medicine Division, Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, Daejeon 34054, Korea.
3 Human Anti-Aging Standards Research Institute, Uiryeong, Gyungnam 52151, Korea.
4 Acupuncture & Meridian Science Research Center, Kyung Hee University, Seoul 02447, Korea.
Conference/Journal: Int J Environ Res Public Health
Date published: 2021 Mar 15
Other: Volume ID: 18 , Issue ID: 6 , Pages: 3004 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3390/ijerph18063004. , Word Count: 228

We developed two distinct forest therapy programs (FTPs) and compared their effects on dementia prevention and related health problems for older adults. One was focused on Qigong practice in the forest (QP) and the other involved active walking in the forest (WP). Both FTPs consisted of twelve 2-h sessions over six weeks and were conducted in an urban forest. We obtained data from 25, 18, and 26 participants aged 65 years or above for the QP, WP, and control groups, respectively. Neuropsychological scores via cognition (MoCA), geriatric depression (GDS) and quality of life (EQ-5D), and electrophysiological variables (electroencephalography, bioimpedance, and heart rate variability) were measured. We analyzed the intervention effects with a generalized linear model. Compared to the control group, the WP group showed benefits in terms of neurocognition (increases in the MoCA score, and alpha and beta band power values in the electroencephalogram), sympathetic nervous activity, and bioimpedance in the lower body. On the other hand, the QP group showed alleviated depression and an increased bioimpedance phase angle in the upper body. In conclusion, both active walking and Qigong in the forest were shown to have distinctive neuropsychological and electrophysiological benefits, and both had beneficial effects in terms of preventing dementia and relieving related health problems for elderly individuals.

Keywords: Qigong; bioimpedance; cognitive impairment; dementia; electroencephalography; electrophysiology; forest therapy; heart rate variability; psychology; walking in the forest.

PMID: 33804164 DOI: 10.3390/ijerph18063004