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7 health benefits of camping

There are many good reasons to get out into the great outdoors, but here’s one that you may not have considered: your health. The health benefits of camping and experiencing nature are well-documented, and if you’re in need of stress relief and a recharge, grabbing the tent and heading out for an adventure is a good way to make it happen. Camping can help your mood, your brain, your metabolism and your sleep patterns — so check out a camping site, make plans and get on the road.

 

1. Your brain will love the green space

Wondering why camping is good for you? One of the main benefits is exposure to green space and the natural world. Studies have found that humans are healthier and happier when they spend time in nature or have plants around them, whether it’s a view of a park from their office or a commute through trees every day. Scientists believe that our brains respond to natural views and exposure in age-old ways that positively affect mental health. Spending time with nature, particularly if it’s over a few nights, will lift your mood and help you gain perspective on your life.

2. You get more exercise

Camping is an active pastime, and whether you canoe, hike or enjoy a ramble through the scenery, you’re increasing your daily activity levels and therefore reaping a bunch of health benefits. More daily activity means a healthier heart, a faster metabolism and more resilient joints and muscles. Many of us don’t get enough daily movement because of the sedentary nature of our jobs, and let’s face it — going for an explore around a national park is a lot more fun than running on a treadmill.

3. You sleep better

There are a few ways in which camping can increase your sleep quality. For one, you’re unplugged from modernity, and there’s less temptation to stay up watching box sets all night. For another, you’re less exposed to digital or “blue” light emitted by electronic devices, which has been shown to interfere with restful sleep. You’re also away from city distractions and traffic noise. While you might experience owls and river noises, you won’t be exposed to the constant rush of car horns and shouting pedestrians.

4. You reset your body clock

Research has shown that waking up with natural light at dawn is a key factor for resetting our body clocks to help us get healthier sleep patterns. Our body clocks are a basic part of our health; scientists now know that every cell in the body carries signals about the right time to sleep and wake up. It’s those so-called ‘circadian rhythms’ that are disrupted by jet lag or other factors, and this can have long-term health consequences.

Studies of shift workers whose circadian rhythms are all over the place experience a higher rate of health problems and immune system issues than the rest of the population. Waking up with the sun might seem strange if you’re used to an artificial alarm clock, but it’s been proven to have some serious benefits; it’s worth trying to keep up the same schedule even after you go home, with open blinds or an alarm clock that simulates natural dawn light.

5. You enjoy the benefits of being in the moment

A lot of research has been done in recent years on the benefits of mindfulness, a type of meditation that involves being very present and in the moment. Camping is a prime opportunity to experience mindfulness and see how it changes your mood and stress levels. Listen to your body and how it feels in the natural world: the weight of your feet on the ground, the smell of the plants and trees, the feel of the wind, the ache in your legs after a long walk, and so on.

The results, researchers have shown, are hugely positive and help you act more intentionally; rather than sitting down mindlessly in front of Netflix with chocolate, you’ll be more aware of what your body is telling you, and hopefully listen to it with more attention.

6. You have more exposure to vitamin D

Vitamin D is vital for bone health and other aspects of our physical wellness, including our mood, and at least 10 minutes of sunshine each day is essential for maintaining our overall levels of it. The body doesn’t produce vitamin D on its own and needs sun and vitamin D-rich foods to be able to create it, which is why a little bit of sun every day is a good idea (though too much causes skin damage).

Being out and about outdoors – as you most likely will be on your camping trip – is the perfect way to get a little vitamin D boost without even thinking about it. Going for a walk or bike ride, cooking breakfast outside and other activities will quickly give you a top up. Do remember to use sunscreen if you’re out and about on hot days though. 

7. It increases your social time

Even the best places for camping in the UK can’t provide what you bring with you: your precious camping companions. Whether you’re camping as a family or bonding with friends, camping is a shared experience that creates shared memories, teaches children self-reliance and greater understanding of the natural world, and gives you a dose of social time that cements your relationships.

Campsites are also often social hubs for you to spend time with people who share your passion for the outdoors, swap tips and support each other. And if you feel the need to be on your own with the wilderness, all you need to do is slip away gently; nature is right there to enjoy.

Whatever the time of year, modern life can make you feel run-down, stressed and disconnected from the ones you love. Science is clear that camping is an excellent way to heal your ills, boost your mood and make your relationships stronger. It sounds like a simple fix, and it is. The health benefits of camping are just one set of reasons for setting out on your next adventure with your favourite companions by your side.