There’s a great saying…
“The internet use to be what we did to get away from real life, now real life is what we do to get away from the internet.”
A camping trip has a way of making us feel refreshed and rejuvenated and is a therapeutic escape from the daily grind of life. While we may not be able to completely disconnect, escaping to nature and hearing the sounds of birds chirping in the morning or the crackle of a fire at night is an experience that is becoming lost, if not forgotten.
There are scientific reasons that camping and nature are good for the mind and body. It’s time to prioritize you’re mental and physical health and set aside some time to disconnect and go camping. These health benefits of camping are backed by science, giving you 11 more reasons to get outside and camp more.
The Health Benefits of Camping
If you camp, then you have experienced finishing a trip and feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, but have you ever asked yourself why?
Camping is a welcomed escape and an awesome way to connect with friends and family on a meaningful level. One of the best things about camping is that it’s an inexpensive activity that anyone can do.
Here are 11 scientifically backed health benefits of camping that are proven to enhance both your physical and mental well-being.
1. Disconnect from technology
The technological boom in the last 10 years has hit us all like a ton of bricks. The first I-Phone came out in 2007 and in 2017 the estimated number of smartphones is expected to reach 4.77 billion. A staggering 62.9% of the global population owns a cell phone (source).
It’s hard to go anywhere and not see people staring down at their cell phones, seemingly lost in the digital world. It’s not uncommon to sit down for dinner and see people around you staring at their phones rather than talking to each other.
Studies have shown that habitual involvement with cellular devices affects our ability to think, remember, regulate emotion, and pay attention. On a camping trip, hopefully, there is no cell phone service and we get a chance to reconnect with each other and nature without digital distractions.
2. Get better sleep
For the majority of human history, we went to bed when the sun went down and woke up to the sun rising. There has always been lanterns and candles, but there was no electricity and all the modern sleep depriving distractions that come with it.
Our sleep cycle has evolved over thousands of years and is referred to as the circadian rhythm. It’s the brain and bodies 24-hour internal clock telling us when to go sleep. The Circadian rhythm is involved in nervous system activity and hormone production (source).
In 2013 a group of scientist at the University of Colorado found that when you live by the sun’s schedule and spend time outdoors your Melatonin levels become more balanced (source).
Moral of the story, if you need to get some good rest, go camping and leave the digital distractions at home. Our normal sleep patterns have been flipped upside down due to modern living practices and we can all use a little more sleep.
3. Exposure to Fresh Air
Just like mom used to say…
“Get outside and play!”
Fresh air is hard to find in large cities, and the air indoors is even worse.
- Americans spend on average 90% of their time indoors
- Concentrations of some pollutants are 2-5 times higher indoors
- Indoor pollutants have increased in recent decades
When camping, we spend 90% of our time outdoors, if not more. Considering the high number of pollutants there are indoors and camping being a majority outdoors camping should be a welcomed escape.
4. Camping reduces stress levels
This one may sound like common sense. One of life’s age-old adages is if that when you’re stressed out or need to think about something important, take a walk outside.
According to the University of Minnesota being in nature, or even viewing nature can reduce stress and increase pleasant feelings.
Researchers have found that hospitals, schools, and offices with an environment that doesn’t have any visible nature may have an unhealthy impact on quality of life.
A drab and dreary classroom or office makes me want to smash my head through the window.
Stress is something that feels like the norm in today’s world, whether it’s bills, relationships, family, or work there is always something to worry about. Camping is a place where you don’t have to worry about anything, your biggest concern is what time to start making s’mores.
5. Increase your vitamin D levels
Vitamin D, or the sun vitamin, is acquired through exposure to the UV rays of the sun.
With the rise of the supplement industry, it is common to replace natural sources of vitamins with a pill. The initial line of thinking was that a supplement must be just as good for you as the natural source.
Researchers suggest that vitamin D supplementation is not an adequate substitute for actual UV exposure (source).
According to the Cleveland Clinic studies suggest that Vitamin D may help prevent…
- Colon and prostate cancer
- Breast cancer
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Multiple sclerosis
With all the science regarding the positive effects the sunshine vitamin has on your overall health (yes there are contrary studies as well). You can chalk it up as another reason to camp every weekend, or at least more often.
6. Quality time with friends and family
Try and sit down today and have a conversation with someone without a cell phone being glanced at. Not gonna happen.
According to Dr. Teresa Seeman, after scouring through years of publications she found that people who have strong social networks live longer and have a better state of mental health.
It’s easier said than done, we all know that putting the cell phone down and listening is the right thing to do. That’s one of the best parts od camping, it forces us to disconnect, giving us the opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends.
7. Counteract sedentary lifestyle symptoms
Most days camping are spent hiking, fishing, swimming, and exploring.
Today, more people live a sedentary lifestyle (which is dangerous to your health) than ever before. Brought about by new technology and a shift work practices, we spend more time sitting than we ever have in recent history.
A recent study found that 87% of our days are spent indoors, and another 6% is spent in a car (source), that’s depressing.
One of the best ways to fight the negative effects modern living has on our bodies is to be active. Days spent camping can be described as nothing short of active.
8. Counteract seasonal affective disorder
You know that feeling you get when summer is over and you have to wait 6 months for spring to begin, that’s seasonal affective disorder.
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression, and it’s related to the changing of the seasons. It starts right around fall and extends through the winter months (source).
A few of the best ways to fight Seasonal Affective Disorder according to Keck Medicine of USC are all things we do while camping without even thinking about it…
- Get outside (camping)
- Take a vacation (camping)
- Exercise (camping)
- Meditation (sort of camping)
Winter camping brings an exciting set of new challenges like how to stay warm while winter camping and is something everybody needs to experience once in their lives. So if SAD has you down, grab your 4-season tent, and hit the mountains. Don’t forget to kick seasonal affective disorder on its ass on the way out.
9. Experience the benefits of forest bathing
Ok, so this one is a little esoteric, but bear with us here. Shinrin-Yoku is a Japanese term that means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” It started in Japan in the 1980’s and has become an important piece of their preventative health care measures (source).
The idea is pretty straightforward… When you take time to visit a natural area and take a walk in a relaxed way, there are rejuvenating, restorative, and calming effects on your mind and body.
In recent years there have been various studies proving the scientific benefits of Shinrin-Yoku.
There you have it, we should all start referring to camping as forest bathing, or at least make it part of our vernacular.
10. Improved short-term memory
Researchers from the University of Michigan took a look at the benefits that a walk in nature, in any season provides.
They tested students who took different routes on campus. One route is through the city and the other through the Arboretum. They discovered that the students who walked through the Arboretum improved their short-term memory by 20% (source).
According to UM Psychology researcher Marc Berman…
“Interacting with nature can have similar effects as meditating, people don’t have to enjoy the walk to get the benefits. We found the same benefits when it was 80 degrees and sunny over the summer as when the temperatures dropped to 25 degrees in January. The only difference was that participants enjoyed the walks more in the spring and summer than in the dead of winter.”
11. Reduced inflammation
Inflammation has become a talking point in recent years, and the common thinking is that less inflammation is better for overall health.
It’s a natural process that our bodies use to respond to threats like a sprained finger or a viral infection (source).
Inflammation is intensified by a poor diet and unhealthy living. When inflammation kicks into high gear it is associated with a wide range of diseases… Including cancer, heart disease and diabetes (source).
In one study published in PubMed, scientists measured healthy university students who spent time outdoors against those who spent time in nature. They found that the group who spent time in nature (camping in our case) demonstrated reduced oxidative stress and pro-inflammatory levels.
12. Improved eyesight
Too much sun is bad for your health, however, new research suggests that UV light is key for normal eye development in children and may help in the prevention of nearsightedness.
Cases of Myopia (nearsightedness) have been on a huge upward trend, and scientists believe that by 2020 the number could be as high as 2.5 billion, or close to one-third of the world’s population (source).
The initial line of thinking was that spending too much time staring at screens was the cause of the rise in Myopia.
A 2016 pilot study from The Center for Contact Lens Research in Canada suggests that rather than screens, the students who spent more time outside had a lower rate of Myopia.
We can all agree that camping is awesome. It’s an inexpensive way to spend quality time outdoors with your friends and family. You have no job, no boss, and no worries other than enjoying the outdoors with the people that you care about.
If you needed any more reasons to hit the trail, you now have 12 scientifically backed reasons to start planning your next camping adventure.
Hopefully, this list of the health benefits of camping will give you the extra nudge to start planning your next camping trip. Keep calm and camp on.