Health Benefits of Camping
Having just returned from a three night camping trip, I feel energized. There is something about spending time camping in nature that leads you to feeling good. There are definite health benefits to camping, both mental and physical. Twenty four hours after my return, I am still feeling great. What is it about camping that leads to my feeling so good? Are there health benefits to our camping trips?
One of the great benefits of camping is that you have no choice but to be active. Even if you are not backpacking or planning to do much hiking, fishing or swimming, it is likely that you will still be more active than you are in your everyday life at home or at work. Typically, when camping, there are a variety of instances where you will be walking that you usually would not be. For example, on our most recent trip, the campground had bathrooms with flush toilets and a sink for washing dishes. The closest bathroom was about 200 steps away, as was the sink; when cooking a meal, it is typical to make a few trips back and forth. You will find yourself walking to the trash bin and back and perhaps, as we did, discovering that the bathroom 400 steps away is much cleaner and worth the extra walking. There are also some tasks that will keep you active that are camping specific, such as setting up your tent or collecting firewood. And of course being that you are away from the television and computer, you will keep yourself occupied in other, likely more physically active ways, like taking a walk to explore the campgrounds, walking from your car to catch a special view, or throwing a ball around. A great bonus is that physical activity is helpful in increasing serotonin levels, which is beneficial for your mental well-being.
On our most recent trip, to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, I was more active than usual; and I am pretty active to begin with. I would wake early each morning and go for a long walk first thing. And we spent the rest of the day hiking to waterfalls and swimming in rivers. We had been staying at my brother’s house in Atlanta prior to visiting the mountains. The weather where my brother lives was hot and humid and it was hard to motivate ourselves to do much outside of being in the air conditioning. The two block walk to the pool was enough. The air was much cooler where we were camping, making it easier to want to be out doing something.
I Feel Good…
When camping, you will find yourself outside for the majority of your adventure. Just being outside will lead to a variety of health benefits. Should the sun be shining, you will gain the benefit of getting Vitamin D. This is important and helpful, as Vitamin D will help you to absorb calcium and phosphorus. Having enough Vitamin D is also known to be important when it comes to mental health, as those deficient in Vitamin D are often struggling with depression.
When camping, it is likely you are surrounded by more trees than in your everyday life. On our most recent camping trip, we were in awe of the number of trees we were surrounded by. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, clearing the air you breathe. Out in the mountains, you are benefitting from breathing fresh air.
Camping tends to reduce your stress level. In my case, our world slows down when we are camping. I am not impacted by the typical distractions of our everyday life; our phones don’t have signal and we have no internet access. I stop worrying about work or my emails because there is no way to keep up with what is going on. There are no arguments with the kids about “one more television show”. Another thing that reduces the stress is that options when camping are more limited than when at home. We can only bring so much food and so many utensils or cooking implements. Meals are simple by necessity and the pressure to provide a certain type of meal is off. We tend to eat healthier when camping, which is certainly good for us. As you can only bring so much with you, overeating is rarely a problem. And if you have quality camping equipment, you will find that sleeping outdoors is very nice; in fact, with the increase in activity level, you may find yourself sleeping better than you do at home in your own bed.
I Did It!
No matter how many times you have gone camping, there is a feeling of satisfaction after every trip. Camping is great for one’s self-confidence. There are skills to learn and master and each adventure presents different challenges. In our case, much of our experience is camping in dry areas. Lighting a campfire is different when all of the wood that you find is somewhat wet. And then there is camping in the rain! The times we have experienced rain during camping have led to our devising solutions to make our adventure more comfortable. Solving problems that are outside of our comfort zone leads to an increase in your confidence. We enjoy seeing an idea we have had work for us. There is a great feeling of self-reliance that comes from a completed trip. Without the access to resources we are used to, we may have to get creative.
Not Just a Good Time
Camping is not just a good time, but an experience that is good for you. Most will find that their physical activity increases when camping, which is great in and of itself, and the increase of serotonin is an added benefit. Spending more time outside will lead to increases in Vitamin D levels. Those who camp will find their stress levels decrease as they enjoy time away from the distractions of daily life. Camping has much to offer and each trip offers the opportunity to embark on a whole new challenge and adventure.