Trees — good for your health

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By Jennifer Teegarden, DNR forestry outreach specialist

Today is the first day of Arbor Month in Minnesota, which causes me to reflect on the many benefits of trees. The shade that trees cast is an important benefit to me. 

In 2000, I was diagnosed with skin cancer, or melanoma. Luckily my treatment only required removing the cancerous mole and doctor’s orders to avoid bright sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Because melanoma can spread to other organs in your body, I didn’t argue with my doctor’s recommendation.

Luckily for me, shade from trees reduces exposure to UV rays, the primary cause of skin cancer. So now, during the summer, I stick to the trees when I am outside. I use shade as natural sun block to prevent further damage to my skin and to stay healthy. It has worked—I have been cancer free for 17 years.

Walking among the trees has also helped me discover another health benefit—stress reduction. Studies show that exposure to forests decreases mental fatigue by relaxing and restoring the mind, and lowering your blood pressure and heart rate.

Over the years, I have learned about the numerous health benefits of trees. There are hundreds of research studies supporting the positive effect of trees on our overall wellbeing. Besides the benefits of reducing skin cancer and stress, did you know childhood asthma rates are lower in urban neighborhoods that have a higher density of tress? Or that kids who play in nature are more relaxed and attentive, which improves their ability to learn and their performance in school? As a parent, I realize the importance of time outside in forested places for my daughter’s health and success.

This year for Arbor Month, to honor the importance of trees to our personal health, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources encourages everyone to get their daily dose of trees. Spend time with trees every day to improve your health.

As an added incentive, we’re launching the #31DaysOfTrees Challenge. During Arbor Month—the entire month of May—every time you get your daily dose of trees, let us know. It’s simple, just post a picture or video to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram along with the hashtag #31DaysOfTrees (include @MinnesotaDNR for Facebook). You will be entered to win one of five Minnesota state parks permits and have 10 trees planted at a Minnesota state forest in your honor. Your chance to win increases the more times you post photos or videos of you and your friends and family enjoying a daily dose of trees. The DNR will select our top five favorite entries based on best selfie, best video, best location, most unique tree and most creative way to get your daily dose of trees.

There are so many ways to get your daily dose of trees: climb a tree, go camping, sit under a tree, take a hike or visit a forest. Or if you need some down time, consider reading a book under a tree or just plain relaxing in a hammock in the shade of a tree.

Trees, they are good for your health. Visit the Minnesota’s Arbor Month webpage for challenge details and to learn more about the health benefits of trees.