What is a healing forest?

Healing forests are wooded areas, which are suitable for the therapeutic use in specific medical indications. Treatments by trained therapists in healing forests can favourably influence the course of diseases and disabilities as well as mental disorders (tertiary prevention) and relieve chronic diseases (palliation).

The minimum criteria are general structural requirements for curative forests:

Basic requirements

  • well managed, near-natural forest
  • location removed from road/rail traffic
  • development / use / landscaping concept

Environment

  • parking facilities
  • health-promoting facility in the immediate vicinity

Health-promoting aspect

  • emission-free forest air
  • relaxing

Health-promoting aspect

  • emission-free forest air
  • indication-based, medically substantiated presentation of criteria

Signage

  • signposts with trail length information and information on special sights
  • graphical presentation of trail profile
  • info boards on plants and trees, special features in wood, exposure to allergens
  • instructions for indication-based health promotion
  • info board on the forest classification

Trail network

  • unpaved track surfaces
  • signposted exercise trails graduated according to strenuousness and difficulty
  • trails for moderate physical exertion
  • some parts of trails should be suitable for persons with physical handicaps, wheelchair users

Infrastructure

  • seating
  • facilities for resting/picnicking/forest pavilion
  • relaxation and exercise area
  • designated first aid point
  • walking training facilities

Accessibility

  • some trails are accessible to persons with disabilities

Treatment options

  • climate (skin and respiratory tract disorders)
  • movement (orthopaedic, cardiovascular and neurological disorders)
  • relaxation and movement (mental illness)
  • Kneipp hydrotherapy (cardiovascular and mental disorders)

Specialist personnel

  • climatotherapist
  • physiotherapist
  • psychotherapist

In addition to the minimum criteria, optimal criteria are also defined. For an optimum, for example, the proximity to a body of water (lake, pond, stream, sea) is necessary. But there is also scope for extensions to the facilities, including: a dining facility at the edge of the forest, a sensory perception trail, an educational forest trail and trails with lighting and equipped with handrails.

The possibility of extending the specialist personnel with a specialist in forest education is also mentioned.

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