Love the great outdoors but not much of a camper? If you are new to the whole camping scene, then you should know about the physical and mental health benefits of camping.
Into the wild
Treading into the great outdoors and experiencing the wonders of nature is one of the best ways to escape the chaos and stress of the big city. Going camping for the weekend can be an excellent way to welcome some adventure, thrill and peace into your life. Whether you stay in the RV, a cabin in the woods, or in a tent in the midst of nature, camping can help you detach from all the complexities of your life for a few days. You can go hiking, biking, trekking, fishing, swimming or spend time with your family or any other activity out in nature.
Regardless of how you want to spend your time, simply being in the midst of rugged mountains, lush, green forests, clear lakes and under the starry night sky can make you feel better, both physically and mentally. No wonder, camping helps to make us live a healthier and longer life.
Science-backed health benefits of camping outdoors
Although you may not realize it, the health benefits of camping are actually validated by science. Studies have found that the likelihood of experiencing good health and overall well-being increased significantly when someone spends time in nature for at least 120 minutes in a week. When compared to urban environments, people who spend more time in natural environments, whether over the weekend or multiple short visits per week, tend to report good health and wellbeing. This was observed even in older adults and individuals suffering from long-term health issues.
But that’s not all. Several studies have found that spending time in nature and engaging in outdoor activities like camping or forest bathing (Shinrin -Yoku), is strongly linked to disease prevention, health promotion and “improvement of various health outcomes and well-being.” Among the other well-documented health benefits of camping, the researchers found that being in nature can help to treat different stress-related medical symptoms and conditions. It is believed that green environments have therapeutic qualities and positive health outcomes.
The researchers explain that exposure to “forests” can also help in managing several “psychological symptoms”, such as –
- Mood disorders
- Burnout syndrome
- Lifestyle-related stress
- Overall quality of life
So if you haven’t been camping in a while or weren’t motivated to get started, the numerous health benefits of camping and nature exposure can give you the encouragement you need to pack your bags, book a campsite and head out into the wild for a quick weekend getaway or a longer trip.
Reasons why camping is good for you
Tired of being stuck in a desk and chair all day? Sick of staring into the incessant glare of your laptop? Then escaping into nature and enjoying the pleasures of camping can help to boost your mental health, emotions, mood, sleeping patterns and metabolism. Here are some ways camping can benefit your mental health and physical health –
1. Lower stress and anxiety
While there are many health benefits of camping, reducing stress and anxiety are some of the most common effects of camping. When you are out in nature, your tendency to overthink, worry, stress and feel anxious on a daily basis disappears. Being at the campsite and absorbing the magnificent wonders of nature can help to boost your serotonin levels, manage melatonin levels and increase your levels of oxygen. Not only can this make you feel more relaxed and less stressed, you will feel less angry, irritated and annoyed, especially when you camp with your family, friends and loved ones.
Researchers from a 2010 study found that the therapeutic effects of visiting a forest can lead to psychological healing and positive well-being for people from urban environments. It can also lead to –
- Reducing anxiety and stress
- Promoting positive moods & feelings
- Reducing blood pressure & heart rate
- Improving productivity & concentration
- Improving the psychological state
- Facilitating recovery from illness
The researchers explain that forest stimuli is very different from urban stimuli as there are low noise levels, stable environments that do not change rapidly and lower human population. Hence, forest stimuli are less ambiguous, stressful and conflicting and offer more predictability, unlike urban settings. “The forest setting tends to evoke coping behavior, in which one deals with a threatening or stressful stimulus either by handling it or by avoiding it,” adds the study. When you go camping, you develop certain coping behavior that support positive psychological changes and help you deal with threats.
2. Better moods
Does camping make you happier? The answer is yes! By reducing stress and increasing your serotonin levels, camping helps to improve your mood and emotions. As a result, you feel relaxed and happier when camping. Camping on weekends can promote the production of the happy hormone serotonin in your brain. “Serotonin may be associated with physical health as well as mood,” explains a study.
Healthy exposure to sunlight can help to balance the levels of melatonin in the brain, which helps you feel less depressed, less tired and experience improved moods. Studies show that camping in forests can help to “reduce and ameliorate” depression, especially in alcoholics. Moreover, as you spend more time in the wilderness enjoying the cool fresh air in the presence of natural environments while engaging in various activities with you family and friends, away from all the distractions and daily stressors, you experience greater mood and happiness. You can enjoy the health benefits of camping not only during your adventure, but also after you come back from your trip.
3. Physical fitness
Whether you engage in any adventurous outdoor activities or decide to just relax and enjoy nature near your tent, there is no doubt that you will need to be physically active. From setting up tents and cooking food, to going for hikes, gathering firewood or fishing, you will be engaged in different activities that are physical in nature. This will help you experience better physical health, unlike your sedentary life in the city that is devoid of any real activity that supports physical fitness.
Studies show that nature-based activities like camping are good for our mental and physical health. According to a 2018 study, outdoor physical activities related to camping, such as hiking or walking in natural terrain is an excellent way to deal with inactivity and the different illnesses that result from inactivity. Hiking and spending “time in nature can lead to health benefits through contact with the natural elements, participation in physical activity, restoration of mental and emotional health, and time with social contacts,” explain the researchers. The study further highlighted the following health benefits of camping –
- Decreases blood pressure
- Decreases stress levels
- Enhances immune system functioning
- Restores attention
- Improve digestion and metabolism
- Promotes weight loss
- Reduces risk of respiratory problems
- Enhances sense of balance
- Helps cope with diabetes
- Improves heart health
- Stronger muscles and bones
- Decreases depression
- Overall wellness
As you are constantly performing physically-engaging tasks, you burn more calories than in your daily life. You can also engage in cardiovascular exercise by going biking, hiking, fishing, canoeing, rafting or swimming to keep your lungs and heart healthy. But the best thing is, you will not even feel like exercising as you will be too busy having fun.
Going camping can lead to stronger muscles, resilient joints, faster metabolism, a healthier heart and lots of fun. Good luck finding all that sitting on your office desk or lazing around on your couch on the weekend. However, you need to make sure that you have the proper gear and stay safe & cautious while engaging in physical activities during camping.
4. Mental & emotional wellbeing
Apart from the physical health benefits of camping, there are numerous other emotional and psychological benefits as well. There is no doubt that camping is good for your mental wellbeing as there are several benefits of camping for your mental health. As stated earlier, camping can help to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression and improve your mood and emotions, however, there are many other mental health benefits of going outside and camping in nature. In the past few years, numerous research has emerged to show that “time spent in the presence of nature improves psychological health and well-being,” states a study. The researchers have identified the following mental health outcomes of being in natural environments for leisure activities, such as going camping –
- Enhances psychological well-being
- Promotes caring behaviors
- Lowers risk of mental health issues
- Enhances mood
- Improves cognitive capacity and attentional capacity
- Mediates vitality
- Improves self-esteem & total mood disturbance.
- Enhances positive cognitive and emotional outcomes
- Enhances emotional well-being
Further studies show that outdoor adventure camps can be beneficial for people with mental illness as it can significantly help to improve quality of life, self-esteem, mastery and social connectedness. “There is growing evidence to suggest that exposure to natural environments can be associated with mental health benefits,” suggests another 2014 study.
How camping helps you live healthier
Apart from the health benefits of camping mentioned above, here are some other camping benefits that will motivate you to head into the woods and enjoy the bliss of nature this weekend –
- It can help you get some fresh air and take in more oxygen and release more serotonin.
- It boosts socialization skills, promotes teamwork, and helps to strengthen relationships.
- It can reset your natural sleep cycle (body clock or circadian rhythm) and help you to get quality sleep.
- It helps you eat better and healthier whole foods that are made with fresh ingredients and are freshly cooked.
- It encourages you to develop a range of new survival and life skills such as cooking meals, tying knots, fishing, setting tents etc.
- It helps you unplug from all your devices, social media, and notifications to get a digital detox.
- It helps you build a closer connection with nature and wildlife leading to a better appreciation of nature.
- It boosts your exposure to sunlight which leads to more vitamin D, improving your bone health and overall physical health.
- It improves your self-awareness and helps you better understand yourself by giving you the mental space to think about your priorities.
- It helps you practice mindfulness and allows you to live in the present moment by being in the midst of nature. One of the health benefits of camping is its meditative nature.
- It helps you to boost your immune function, manage pain better and heal after illness or surgery.
- It stimulates your brain by mentally and physically engaging you in thrilling new experiences.
Apart from these, camping also promotes relaxation, creativity, problem solving skills, self- confidence and motivation.
Gear up for your next adventure
Ready to go on a camping trip? Now that you are well-aware of the health benefits of camping, pack your gear and head for the mountains with your family and friends to enjoy a weekend of camping fun, happiness, peace and bonding in the middle of nature.
However, make sure to follow campsite instructions, inform others of your whereabouts, stick to the trail and stay safe. When done properly, with people you love, camping can be a great experience for everyone. The added health benefits come as a bonus that motivate you to keep going back to nature.
So head on out and enjoy the great outdoors this weekend.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
Why camping is good for you?
Camping promotes both mental and physical well-being. It also helps to build positive relationships, learn new skills, boost self-confidence and self-esteem, and reduce stress and anxiety.
How does camping relieve stress?
When walking or hiking through woods, we take in more oxygen which releases the happy hormone serotonin. This helps to boost your mood, help us feel relaxed and improve our self-esteem.
Is camping good for anxiety and depression?
Camping can reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms. Studies have found that natural environments are less ambiguous, stressful and conflicting and offer more predictability than urban settings. This helps us develop coping skills to better deal with stress, anxiety and depression.