Let me explain to you why I take at least one camping trip every year. Don’t worry, I’m not the Bear Grylls type, either. You really don’t need to go extreme to experience the advantages of being outdoors.
Incorporating camping into a healthy lifestyle will bring you many benefits for both your physical health and mental health. These are the reasons why you should go camping to get healthy.
Outdoor activities like camping stimulates your senses. You get to experience sights and sounds that put you back in touch with nature. It is important sometimes to take a break and let your mind and body recharge, especially in today’s world driven by screens and technology.
These are the reasons why camping is healthy.
Eating Healthy Food While Camping
A common question about camping is how to keep eating healthy. Camping limits your cooking options, and if the camping grounds are not near a supermarket, then your groceries are limited, too. On the other hand, camping also limits your access to processed foods and takeaway meals.
Sometimes I find myself eating out of boredom, like when I’m reading a long report. Keeping yourself busy in nature keeps you from mindless snacking. And without that office vending machine nearby you won’t be tempted, either.
This is how camping helps to introduce healthy eating.
1. You Build a Healthy Appetite
Don’t worry if you notice a better appetite on your camping trip. You are burning more calories during outdoor activities than when you are sitting behind your desk at the office all day.
Make use of your chance to get active. Plan in activities such as hiking or biking for your camping trip. Look for trails near camping grounds, so you don’t need a car to access them.
These outdoor activities can take as long as you want. Set your own pace. Try something intense like rock climbing for an adrenaline rush or slowly take in your surroundings with geocaching. The point is that you enjoy being active.
2. You Have More Control Over Your Meals
Going camping is your chance to cut yourself off from fatty and sugary snacks. When you are at home or work, it is far too easy to go around the corner and get a snack from the convenience store. It is not so easy when you are in a beautiful nature reserve with no stores for miles.
With a little preparation, camping can be your opportunity to cook healthy meals. It’s about finding the right ingredients and avoiding processed foods. Plan your grocery shopping wisely.
Pack fresh vegetables and fruit that will keep for several days. Don’t go shopping for snacks with trans fats and high sugar content. By only bringing healthy food on your camping trip you are controlling your diet and removing unhealthy temptations.
Health Benefits of Outdoor Activities
There is a reason why Tour de France riders train at high altitudes, and runners hit a ‘high.’ It has to do with the oxygen levels of being outdoors.
3. Fresh Air Relaxes You
Fresh air is a major reason why outdoor activities are so healthy. We’ve all been told to go and get some fresh air at some point in our lives. This common and simple phrase holds more wisdom then you think.
Fresh, natural air contains higher levels of oxygen which provide a range of health benefits. Oxygen intake releases serotonin. Serotonin helps to put you in a good mood by regulating things like your stress levels, sleeping pattern, digestive system, and even your social and romantic behavior. Basically, serotonin makes sure that both your mind and body are more relaxed.
This is exactly why green spaces are said to be so relaxing. Plants release oxygen and reduce pollutants. In other words, being in nature makes you more relaxed because there are more fresh air and so more oxygen.
You don’t need to perform an intense exercise like biking or canoeing to benefit from fresh air. Mild exercise like following a short hiking trail or fishing will already increase your serotonin levels.
4. Sunshine Makes You and Your Brain Happy
Another advantage of outdoor exercise is receiving vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D is essential for calcium production to build strong bones and teeth. Sunshine is also known to help prevent depression.
Still, prefer the enclosed space of your gym? Then let me tell you why your overall fitness will improve with outdoor exercise.
When you are speeding along a trail with your mountain bike or hiking up a mountain, you are not only training your muscles. Your brain is also being trained with outdoor exercise. Exercising in nature is more stimulating because you need to involve your instincts.
Imagine for example that you are biking on a nature trail. You need to keep an overview of the trail to know where you are heading. You need to feel how slippery the ground is to stay stable. You need to listen for animal sounds or other riders that might cross your path. Your brain is constantly taking in new information and problem solving as you go.
If you are staying fit to live a long and healthy life, then don’t forget about exercising your brain, too. An active brain reduces the risk of diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Even if you are not into fitness, camping will still hold health benefits for you. Camping grounds are usually in nature where there is more fresh air. You will also be spending more time outside soaking up the sun, even if all you do is sit in a camping chair and enjoy the view. Don’t pass up on the health benefits of being outdoors.
Why Nature is Relaxing
If you are more interested in mental fitness, then camping is your way to relaxation. Studies have shown that being in nature works wonders for people that are overworked, stressed or sad. This is how camping has helped me to calm my mind, body, and soul.
5. Unplugging Calms You Down
Is being online and reading from screens and unavoidable part of your job, too? Technology has become so integrated into our daily lives that we sometimes don’t even notice it. However, being constantly connected can also increase our stress levels.
Unplugging for a few days gives you a break from triggers of stress. It lets you avoid information that induces negative and obsessive thinking and anxiety.
Replace the negative input with positive input by going camping in nature. Green spaces like nature parks help to reduce anxiety and depression.
6. Natural Light Improves Your Sleep
So, you are in bed after a long day, scrolling through your feed before going sleep. Then, you suddenly realize that you have been scrolling since 11 pm and it’s already two in the morning. This has happened to all of us.
Exposure to artificial light sources, like the blue light from phone screens, messes with your natural sleeping pattern. Unplugging on a campsite for a few days gives your body the time to return to a regular healthy sleeping pattern.
Camping limits your exposure to artificial lights and exposes you to natural sunlight. Your body naturally adjusts its rhythm when you are spending more time outdoors. Fewer lights at night will also allow for deeper sleep which makes you feel more energized in the morning.
Social Benefits of Camping
Camping is good for your social relationships. It’s a chance to get to know each other better and build a bond.
7. You Don’t Need Screens to Connect
All too often we find ourselves right next to other people but still in conversation with a screen. Camping has brought me closer to my friends because we get to have real conversations without being distracted by social media feeds.
Doing activities together is a bonding experience. Even when some of the people in your group are shy, doing outdoor activities will make them feel more comfortable.
Camping is also a great chance for kids to have fun in nature. Yes, a movie is a great pacifier. I’ll admit to using that trick on the mornings that I want to sleep in. But trust me, paddling around a lake or chasing each other in the woods works like magic.
These are the reasons why leaving the city for a few days and going camping has helped me stay healthy. It is easy to get stuck in unhealthy routines when you are working a full-time job. Camping frees you from those routines and lets you get back in touch with yourself and nature.
You don’t need to go camping every weekend to feel the difference. It is about letting yourself take a break to start fresh.