The Benefits Of Camping For Your Mind And Body
Last updated on : December 05 2022
If a doctor were to write a prescription that would reduce stress, get you in better shape, build closer connections to those you love, and improve mindfulness, you jump on board his recommendations.
You can get all those benefits without a prescription by just camping. The worries of modern life melt into the background, and you can tune into your environment and the people around you.
Come on this journey with us and see how camping can be a relatively inexpensive getaway and a positive boost to your mind and body.
Eight Reasons Why Camping Is So Healthy
Here are eight reasons camping is so fantastic for your mind and body.
1. Stress Reduction
Stress is the modern killer. It leads to increased blood pressure, lowered hormone levels, disordered sleep, and messed up eating patterns. Any of these would be a problem but combined, they increase your risk of many health problems, including heart attack, obesity, diabetes, and sleep apnea.
When we experience heightened stress, our body releases chemicals that prime us to fight or run from danger - however, this is not how we deal with stress in modern life. So we don't get to burn off the energy our body releases when under stress.
The simple act of being outside has been shown in numerous studies to reduce stress. When you go camping, life slows down. No emails to answer or traffic to navigate.
We evolved for a life of living in nature, and it is only recently that humans have moved away from that.
While we aren't suggesting abandoning hot showers and air conditioning, frequent exposure to nature is a great way to reset and reframe our daily stresses.
The combination of exposure to nature and the general increase in activity that comes from camping will invariably reduce cortisol levels, the primary stress hormone. And researchers have linked lowered cortisol to improvements in many health markers.
2. Improve Connection
One of the things people are missing is a genuine connection with other people. Life is moving too fast for us to have quality time with our friends and family.
Camping is the perfect antidote to this. We work together getting camp set up, engage in activities like hiking or canoeing, and finish the day talking around the campfire.
No one remembers the time spent watching TV together, but your kids will remember the adventures of going on a camping trip. It lets you connect in a way that takes a concerted effort in daily life.
This connection can start before the camping trip by involving your kids in the planning process. From where you want to go and what you want to do when you are there to making a camping checklist so you don't forget anything, kids love to be part of the process.
The same goes for camping with friends. You bond over your adventures and make memories that you will retell for years. The free time together in nature without the constraints of daily life allows you to forge a deeper connection with people as a byproduct rather than the goal.
3. Mental Health Boost
Whether it is more people being open about their mental health issues or an influence of the times, we see record numbers of people reporting depression or anxiety.
Getting out in nature and slowing down are excellent ways to help your mental health. At the same time, increasing your activity level is a powerful antidepressant.
All of the issues people are facing are interrelated. Increased stress increases depression and anxiety right along with it. Lower stress and positive mental health outcomes have been correlated, which isn't surprising. We need time to chill out and recharge.
4. Escape From Social Media
While the internet has many positives, experts have linked social media with decreased self-esteem and increased rates of depression. This data even comes from the social media companies themselves. Often when camping, we are out of cell phone range, so you benefit from being cut off from social media.
Whether exposed to news designed to make you angry or see people you perceive as having better lives than you, social media is optimized to tap into the worst parts of ourselves.
You get a dopamine hit from the likes when you post yourself, and if a post does well, you are outsourcing your validation to strangers. If it doesn't get the desired reaction, you may experience mild depression.
If you always check your social media to see what other people are doing and how many likes your posts get, then camping will be a much-needed mental reset.
By disconnecting, you detox from the social media companies tapping into your brain's reward centre without your awareness.
5. Simple Mindfulness Practice
Mindfulness is the act of engaging with the present moment. You are thoughtfully aware of your surroundings, feelings, and sensations without focusing on the past or future.
Most people work on this through meditation, but camping is a simple mindfulness practice. You exist at the moment and focus on simple daily tasks.
It is the simplicity of chopping wood and carrying water.
Without even being aware, you will place yourself in the present moment, which may be why many people find camping so good for their mental state. It is a form of active meditation.
6. Sleep Better
Not getting enough high-quality sleep is a slow killer. One stormy night of sleep can lower your testosterone levels and give you the blood markers of someone on the verge of diabetes.
With so many people wearing fitness trackers, we have access to the sleep data of thousands of people, and the trend we are seeing is that most people don't get enough sleep.
Camping is an antidote to this. Since you are outside, you get removed from artificial light allowing your body to reset your circadian rhythms with the setting sun. The extra activity will make you more tired at the end of the day, helping your body get to sleep.
Optimizing your camping sleep system is key to taking advantage of these stimuli.
- Make sure you have a good quality tent with adequate ventilation.
- Get a sleeping pad that is both cushioned and insulated.
- Choose a sleeping bag that is rated at least 10 degrees warmer than the coldest temperature you expect to encounter.
- Unless it is a warm summer evening, wear loose fitting insulated top and bottoms plus socks.
- Bring a pillow. If you are car camping, a pillow from home is ideal but for backpacking, look for a compact inflatable pillow for adjustable head support.
- If you want to sleep in, consider wearing a sleep mask, as the sun comes up very early in the warmer months.
7. Get Fit
Camping offers you more activity than you are probably currently doing and gives you something to train for in between trips.
Sometimes it is as simple as having an event, like a camping trip, to motivate a person on their daily fitness journey. Everything in life is better if you are fitter and more vital, so use your camping trip as the reason to get started.
Camping itself requires a lot more movement than modern daily life. You have to get water, collect firewood, prepare food, and clean dishes, and even going to the bathroom requires many more steps than at home.
If you are hiking, mountain biking, or paddling while camping, you will dramatically increase your energy requirements and fitness demands.
Since you don't have climate control, you will expend more energy, either cooling or staying warm. This energy expenditure will all help increase your fitness.
Modern life is physically too easy for most of us, so adding in more demanding activities like camping can be a great way to add exercise in a fun way.
8. Lose Weight
It shouldn't surprise anyone that more people are overweight or obese now than at any other point in history. There are many reasons why from less daily movement to readily available highly palatable foods we can't stop eating.
Based on current studies, more people carry more fat than is healthy.
Regardless of the cause, we know that a change in routine can be one of the best ways to get started on a lifestyle change.
Camping, significantly extended stays of multiple weeks, is both a change of environment and often a dramatic increase in activity.
When you are more active and have less easy access to snacks, your appetite tends to regulate better. Active outdoor pursuits also decrease the amount of snacking due to boredom.
An extreme example of this is someone who thru-hikes the Appalachian trail. These hikers are getting a ton of hiking daily, and their appetite tends to match their energy demands. They finish the trail much leaner with a high level of fitness.
The Bottom Line
Camping is fun, but it also has many other benefits. From building better relationships to undoing the inactivity that comes from modern life, camping is a boon for both your mind and your body.
Don't be afraid that you need to be a weathered outdoor expert to go camping. It comes in all difficulty levels, so start small and grow in your camping adventures as your skills build.
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Editor: Charles Fitzgerald