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Therapeutic functions of forests and green areas with regard to the universal potential of sensory gardens.
* 1 , * 2 , 3
1  University of Life Sciences in Poznań Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology Department of Forestry Management Wojska Polskiego St. 71C, 60-625 Poznań, Poland ORCID: 0000-0001-6658-3315
2  Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan Faculty of Geographic and Geological Sciences Chair of Tourism and Recreation Bogumiła Krygowski Street 10, 61-680 Poznan, Poland ORCiD: 0000-0002-6743-8192
3  Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan Faculty of Geographic and Geological Sciences Chair of Tourism and Recreation Bogumiła Krygowski Street 10, 61-680 Poznan, Poland ORCID: 0000-0003-2298-1076


A significant part of the world's population lives in urban areas, where there are many stressors. Studies show that the less green in the neighbourhood, the higher level of cortisol, the "stress hormone", in the blood of residents. The health benefits of contact with nature has been widely researched. They are described, among others, by “Nature Therapy Theory”. One example of this form of therapy is forest bathing, also known as shinrin-yoku, a practice that combines a series of outdoor exercises and tasks based on mindfully using all five senses. There are also “Therapeutic landscapes”, which are places that for various reasons can have a beneficial effect on health and well-being. Moreover, a positive impact on behaviour and interpersonal self-improvement has "Wilderness therapy". This therapy combines experiential education, individual and group therapy with adventure-based therapy in a wildlife environment. Research show that physical activity in the natural environment is preferable to physical activity in a closed space in terms of the feeling of relaxation, well-being, reduction of stress and aggression. Furthermore, the therapeutic properties of various plant communities have a wide range of impact on specific medical aspects, including disinfection, blood pressure lowering, anti-asthma, or immune-boosting etc.

In the category of green areas which on a small area intensify feelings are sensory gardens. They also have great potential for eliminating stress symptoms and stimulating sensory feelings among people with disability. Sensory gardens, being an element of universal recreational development in urban and suburban conditions, can perfectly fulfil social, educational and therapeutic functions. Their distinguishing feature is a strong influence on non-visual senses. The space adapted to the needs of people with disability gives a sense of security, provide greater independence, can be used for passive and active therapy, and constitute a zone of social inclusion. Sensory gardens can be considered as an example of a comprehensive development of green areas that meets the requirements of universal design.

The presented study is a review. The authors show that providing urban communities a therapeutic contact with nature through the use of urban forests is a very important aspect of improving the quality of life. Special attention was paid to the potential of sensory gardens in the designing of recreational development which may be an opportunity to reduce the process of social exclusion of people with disability in the local environment.

Keywords: sensory gardens; recreational development; universal design; urban forests; forest therapy; urban environment;
Comments on this paper
Rodolfo Picchio
Session Chair comment
Dear Authors,

congratulation for this study. Probably more than any other case, this interesting review points out the overall combination between health benefits provided by the contact with nature of people in green areas, within and beyond the urban context.
Several therapeutic approaches, concerning natural environments, have been deeply analysed with the aim to be implemented through sensory gardens, where urban forest pays special attention to people with disability, promoting life-quality of urban communities and social inclusion of people. I hope to read further insights on this specific and interesting topic soon.

Session Chair

Rodolfo Picchio