THE AMAZING HEALTH BENEFITS OF CAMPING
You may have seen a handful of different posts here on Beyond The Tent about all the wonderful reasons you should go camping. From spending time with family, experiencing the great outdoors, challenging yourself and more.
But did you know that camping is extremely good for your health?
Nearly every aspect of camping provides health benefits, from eating healthier, staying more active, getting more vitamin D, fresh air, mental health and more.
According to the EPA, indoor air quality is on average 2 – 5 times worse than outdoor air quality. Just by stepping outside you’ve already experienced the first health benefit of camping!
This cleaner air has many benefits for you body, especially the increased levels of oxygen which helps your brain to produce extra serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical that is naturally produced in your brain and affects mood, social behavior, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory and sexual desire. Low levels of serotonin are also linked to depression and stress.
BRIGHT NATURAL LIGHT
Remember the serotonin we just talked about, bright lights also cause your body to produce more serotonin. But that isn’t the only benefit of bright natural light. It also helps your body produce melatonin. Melatonin is a chemical produced by your body that controls your sleep and wake cycles. Melatonin basically controls your internal clock. Recent studies have shown that we actually sleep better when we set our sleep cycles with those of the sun. This is the way people have operated for thousands of years. Not to mention, camping gives you an excuse to go to bed by 9!
Another benefit of natural sunlight is that it helps your body create vitamin D. When your skin is exposed to UV light it produces vitamin D. A lack in vitamin D can mean low bone mass and osteoporosis. With a sufficient amount of vitamin D your body will produce strong and healthy bones.
From hiking, biking, fishing, canoeing and more, when you’re out camping you will find that exercise comes naturally and easily. These fun activities mixed with setting up your campsite, walking to bathrooms, building fires and more all involve more exercise than they do in your normal environment.
An average adult female will typically burn between 1,500-2,000 calories per day (more or less depending on size and level of activity). That same adult will typically burn between 2,000 – 2,500 calories per day while camping, and that is without any major adventures. So right there, just by being outdoors and having to do more than you normally would around your house, you are burning an average of 500 more calories per day.
But the typical camping experience does not stop with just sitting in a lawn chair in a nice campground. A typical person burns roughly 200 calories per hour walking, so a moderate hike with minimal gear easily burns 250-300 calories per hour. Add in any swimming, rowing, climbing, biking or other typical camping hobbies and you’ve got a very active day.
After all that exercise you will also find that you’ve built up a healthy appetite. I don’t mean you will just have a big appetite, but a truly healthy one. This means you will crave foods that nourish your body rather than the ones that provide little to no benefit. Cooking also requires a bit more work since you cannot call for pizza (well, at some campsites I suppose you can!).
On average, most home cooked meals are healthier than any fast food, delivery of pre-packaged food you may be eating at home. Add in a little planning for some healthy energy replenishing foods and your camping diet can easily be a big step up in healthy eating.
Check out our camping recipes here (like Pie Iron Pizza Calzones!)
Many of you may be thinking that there is no way you’ll be sleeping better while camping, but trust me, it’s completely true.
After a day of burning off more calories than normal, eating healthier foods and enjoying the oxygen and bright sun, your body will be ready for a long peaceful nights sleep.
Studies have shown that un-natural lights, electronic devices and stresses of the modern world can throw many people’s sleep cycles completely out of whack. After a few days out in nature with no alarms, phones, emails or other distractions, your body will begin a sleep cycle that provides you with exactly the amount of sleep that you need.
Obviously though you will probably want a nice sleeping pad, sleeping bag and camp pillow!
Beyond the physical health that camping provides, it also offers many benefits to your mental health.
Just like many other vacations, removing yourself from your daily grind can take a load of stress off.
But camping can provide an extra level of stress relief that many typical vacations cannot.
Once you are out in the woods you may often find that internet, wireless and even electricity may be scare, thus removing the temptations of phone calls, emails, alarm clocks, schedules and more. Without these things in your life, you may quickly find that your stress has completely dissolved!
Socialization (or isolation!)
Getting out camping can provide socialization that your daily life often times cannot. Sure, you may see your co-workers, wife (husband), kids and friends, but spending time with your family and friends while removed from your daily distractions can often times lead to a new appreciate your loved ones. You may quickly find yourselves talking and laughing more than you have in years.
Isolation can also be a beautifully refreshing part of camping. I find myself feeling crowded in my daily life and loving the isolating aspect of camping. This can mean to simply be isolated from the business of the big city and enjoying the company of my fellow campers or complete isolation on a solo camping trip. Both are wonderful benefits.
Most people enjoy a new challenge and get a great feeling of accomplishment and pride when completing something they have never done before.
Camping can provide you with many new challenges that you haven’t faced or even considered in your daily life. Challenges like cooking your food over an open flame, setting up a living space, hiking a long and difficult trail, living without things you thought were necessary or even just making it through the weekend!
Hopefully these health benefits of camping have gotten you excited and your ready to pack up your gear and get out to the campground!