"Forest bathing" might sound like something reserved for dirty hippies. (I joke!)

Fear not. According to the New York Times, "Forest bathing" or "Shinrin-yoku" is simply the act of visiting nature parks for therapeutic effects and was given this fancy name by fans and followers in Japan.

We all know that spending time outdoors brings a whole host of healthy benefits, including stress management. But now there is a new, improved and additional perk. Scientists are crediting phytoncides, the airborne chemicals emitted by plants to protect them from rotting and insects. As it turns out, phytoncides happens to have a positive, protective chemical reaction on us humans too.

The study conducted this past January followed 280 healthy residents of Japan. Some of which were instructed to walk through a forest or wooded area for a few hours while the others were asked to walk through an urban setting. On the second day, they traded places. Those who spent time among the plants experienced lower levels of cortisol (which induces stress), a lower pulse rate and lower blood pressure.

Studies from 2007 even show natural increase in white blood cells in those exposed to forest air phytonicides.

Do we really need any more excuses to camp, hike and hit our national and state parks this summer? I'll be vacationing in the Southwest this week, "Forest bathing" until my healthy heart's content.