Healthy Trees, Healthy Lives

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Healthy Trees, Healthy Lives is a national campaign to raise awareness of the connections between human health and trees.

This Tennessee Division of Forestry initiative highlights the numerous mental, physical, economic, and financial benefits healthy trees offer, not only to individuals who experience them firsthand, but to the entire community.

These benefits include decreased asthma rates, increased physical activity, lower rates of depression, greater community connectedness, healthier waterways, lower crime rates, and more.

By increasing access to trees and greenspace throughout the state from big cities to small towns, we can increase the health and well-being of Tennesseans and the communities in which they live.

Learn More & Get Involved

Materials that promote spending more time outdoors among trees, caring for community forests, and ensuring equitable access to greenspaces are available to medical offices, health departments, counseling centers, schools, and universities throughout Tennessee.

If interested in this campaign, obtaining educational materials, or helping to spread the word, please reach out to Ashley Kite-Rowland at

Also, please visit the national website The website provides links to research on the benefits of trees and free resources for you to share the Healthy Trees, Healthy Lives message in your community.

Ways Healthy Trees Create Healthy Lives

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Did you know that research shows that simply spending time around trees can improve your heart's health?

🌳 Exposure to trees reduces the long term likelihood of cardiovascular disease

🌳 Time in nature and around trees reduces blood pressure

Our urban and community trees don't just look pretty - they also improve our health.

So head outside - your heart will thank you!


Health benefits:

Blood pressure:

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Research shows that larger tree canopies at schools are correlated to better student outcomes, including...

🌳 Higher reading test scores

🌳 More student engagement and less distraction

🌳 Reduced absenteeism

🌳 Improved academic performance, including in socio-economically challenged schools

In addition, experiences in gardens correlated to positive science outcomes, and natural learning environments were linked to richer language use.

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Everyone wants a room with a view... but did you know that an office with a view of trees and nature is actually a key to employee wellness?

A 2011 study found that employees whose offices overlooked trees and landscapes took 16% fewer hours of sick leave per year.

Another study in 2010 found that people who worked in buildings with high levels of natural daylight had "lower markers of stress and improved indicators of heart health. . . ." They also "exhibited a better sleep cycle and lower stress outside of the workplace."

In addition, researchers at the University of Florida and University of North Florida conducted a study that found that, "The results indicate that as workday nature increased, perceived stress and generalized health complaints decreased."

Research performed on behalf of the UK Green Building Council indicated "a 23% decrease in sick leave taken by employees with a view of nature and a 15% increase in worker productivity when office spaces are enhanced with plants."

They also found that the reduction in sick leave hours equated to a savings to the employer of over $2,000 per employee per year.

But what do you do if you are in an office with limited natural light or windows or with no view of nature?

Well, researchers say simply taking 10 to 30 minutes to be in nature significantly reduces stress and causes a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol.

It also helps reduce the risk of serious health issues.

Another study found that 20 minutes in a park setting caused a significant improvement in children's ability to focus.

So, even if you are stuck in a work environment that lacks views of nature, just taking a 20 minute break to be outdoors in nature allows you to reap significant physical and mental health benefits.


2011 and 2010 Study Findings:

University of Florida / University of North Florida Research:

UK Green Building Council Report Info:

Research on time in nature reducing stress hormones - University of Michigan:

Discussion on exposure to trees improving long-term mental and physical health:

Study on link between nature and ability to focus:

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Trees provide important benefits for our lungs and respiratory systems.

In 2019, a research team found that a larger tree canopy in urban areas is correlated to better respiratory and cardiovascular outcomes. 

They aren't alone in their findings.

Researchers at Columbia University found that an increase in tree density in urban areas "was associated with a lower prevalence of asthma. . . ." 

In addition, experts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service published research based on computer simulations that indicated trees remove massive amounts of pollution from our air and provide corresponding health benefits.

Computer models demonstrated that the pollutants removed result in $6.8 billion in human health benefits, including, "the avoidance of more than 850 incidences of human mortality and 670,000 incidences of acute respiratory symptoms."

So, whether you are landscaping your yard, planning property development, or are involved in urban or community planning, consider planting trees - both for their aesthetic value and their community health benefits.


Research paper on correlation between urban tree cover and respiratory outcomes:

Research paper on connection between tree density and lower incidence of asthma:

Research paper on trees, pollution, and health:

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Spending time in nature helps boost your immune system in 3 important ways:

🌳 Trees and plants give off airborne chemicals called phytoncides, which plants use as a defense against insects.

For humans, breathing in those chemicals causes our bodies to increase the quantity and activity of killer cells, which are a type of white blood cell that kill tumor cells and cells infected by viruses. 

🌳 Exposure to the natural world improves the human microbiota, a collection of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, that "stimulate[s] the immune system, break[s] down potentially toxic food compounds, and synthesize[s] certain vitamins and amino acids."

A journal article published in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that exposure to nature may be important to build a microbiota that combats inflammation-related illnesses. 

🌳 Appropriate sun exposure increases vitamin D - a nutrient key to immune function - in your body.

According to researched published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal,"Nutrients", "[A]voidance of severe vitamin D deficiency improves immune health and decreases susceptibility to autoimmune diseases." 


Vitamin D Research in "Nutrients":

Phytoncides research:

Microbiota definition:

Microbiota, nature, and inflammation-related illness:

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Being physically active is an important part of living a healthy lifestyle, and that is another reason that prioritizing green spaces in urban areas is so important.

After all, people are more likely to get out and be active when they have access to pleasant spaces.

According to US health experts, "People who have more access to green environments, such as parks and trails, tend to walk and be more physical active than those with limited access," say experts in the US government. 

It isn't just US-based organizations coming to this conclusion.

Researchers around the globe are finding the same thing.

For example, Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, a respected research professor at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, says, "Green space is associated with a large number of health benefits. . . . and provides opportunities for physical exercise and social interaction." 

Additionally, a study conducted in the UK found that "people living in the greenest areas [. . .] are more likely to achieve recommended amounts of physical activity" overall, regardless of whether they were active in public green areas. 

The correlation between physical activity and green space is an important factor for leaders to consider during urban planning, since physical activity is an important element of overall health and wellbeing.


CDC on Green Spaces:

Mark J Nieuwenhuijsen on "Why More Green Space is Essential for Cities":

Oxford University Research Group Study:

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Healthcare professionals have begun prescribing a "nature pill" to patients dealing with high levels of stress.

A "nature pill" is time in nature, regardless of activity level - so taking a walk, pulling weeds, or just sitting under a tree counts!

This old fashioned treatment is backed by an increasing amount of research.

For instance, an interdisciplinary team at Cornell University found in 2020 that, "it takes as few as 10 minutes in a natural setting for college students to feel happier and lessen the effects of stress both physically and mentally." 

In addition, researchers from the University of Michigan published findings in 2019 that indicated that taking a nature pill reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 21%/hour.

They concluded that 20 to 30 minutes of time in nature is the sweet spot to give you the most benefit in the shortest amount of time. 

So, if the stress is getting to you, take a few minutes to head outside - your mind and your body will thank you.


Cornell University article:

Research paper from University of Michigan researchers: