Camping magazines and brochures like to claim that camping is good for us. They use terms like ‘fresh air’ alongside idyllic images of children laughing and playing in lush meadows or woodland. But does camping really benefit our health?
The simple answer is yes. Here is some science behind why your body will love you for getting into the great outdoors.
It makes you more active – This one is pretty self explanatory. Walking, cycling, swimming and other aerobic activity raises your heart rate and stimulates metabolism, giving your heart and lungs a good workout as well as your muscles. Your body also releases endorphins, which give you a greater sense of well-being. Even standing to do the washing up instead of loading the dishwasher and spending the evening on the sofa will burn a few extra calories.
It resets your circadian rhythms – Circadian rhythms are mental, physical and behavioural changes that occur over a 24-hour cycle. They are controlled by your body clock and influence sleep/wake cycles, hormone release and body temperature. Sleeping under the stars and waking with the dawn can help the body to ‘reset’ your circadian clock and bring the regulation of your body’s functions back to a more natural state.
It gets you out in the fresh air – There’s that term, ‘fresh air’ again. But it’s not just something your mum said to you as a child, fresh air is actually beneficial. The air in the country is cleaner than that of the big cities, and being out in it cleans your lungs. You breathe deeper, which delivers more oxygen to your cells, increasing energy and greater clarity to the brain, which needs 20% of the oxygen you breathe to function properly.
It reduces stress – Being away from work, away from the daily commute and office politics inherently results in a calmer you. There’s a big advantage in not checking your e-mails while you’re away – you deserve time to forget that your day-to-day life is fraught and trust us, no-one is going to die if that document is a little delayed. Stress is a contributing factor in many illnesses and when experienced – even in low levels – on a daily basis, can put you at increased risk of issues such as digestive problems, cardiovascular problems and sleep disturbance. Taking time out for yourself and your family will reduce the daily stresses that you’re exposed to and that can only be a good thing.
It allows you to socialise – we humans are social creatures, and a camping trip is the perfect opportunity to meet like-minded people. A study by University College Dublin showed that socialising helps to alleviate symptoms of depression – it helps to boost self esteem and confidence, improving your mood and reducing anxiety.
It gets you out in the sunshine – Everyone knows that a daily dose of sunshine is good for you. But why is it? Sunlight stimulates vitamin D production in the skin, which in turn aids calcium absorption and helps to keep your bones strong. It’s difficult to get sufficient vitamin D from your diet, so some exposure to the sun without sunscreen can produce a beneficial amount of the nutrient. Just remember to take the necessary precautions against too much sun exposure – sunscreen, hats and the like – and take water with you on walks and cycles to stay hydrated.