Camping is a very popular pastime all over the world, especially in the United States, where an estimated 40 million people go camping each year. Camping trips are a great way to enjoy nature, but until recently, we really didn't fully understand the benefits of camping.
New research is showing exactly why camping might actually be one of the most healthy activities out there.
1. You reconnect your sleep cycle to nature.
Sleep issues are huge all over the Westernized world. For millions of years we have evolved to sleep shortly after dark and rise with the sun, and recent evidence has pointed to people sleeping better (if not necessarily longer) when their sleep cycle is consistent with the sun. The mechanism has to do with the timing and production of melatonin, and our internal circadian rhythm.
2. You build your microbiome.
Another extremely exciting area of new science is the germs that live on, in and around us al the time. Getting into nature is a really effective way to improve the depth and resilience of your microbiome; the impact of that improvement on your overall health is just starting to be understood, but it's wide ranging, from decreasing inflammation to improving immunity, metabolism and digestion.
3. You get a great workout.
Not all camping involves a lot of exercise, but it certainly is conducive to it, even if it's only chopping the firewood. For most campers, daily activities can include hiking, biking, swimming and sports, all of which provide the great health benefits of exercise.
4. You reduce stress.
Stress is a huge driver of chronic health issues; stress reduction, therefore, is of upmost importance. Stillness in our surroundings can certainly make it easier to find inner stillness, especially if you add a digital detox to your camping experience. Pro tip: Camp out of cellphone range
5. You're away from artificial light.
Research has suggested that being exposed to artificial light after dark might have a role to play in the development of breast cancer, as well as other chronic diseases. The mechanism for this is likely melatonin production.
6. You build community.
One of the biggest factors in the Blue Zones research, which looked at people groups who consistently lived to 100, consistently found that community was a big component. Camping is typically done in family or friendship groups and time away in community, as well as those you meet while camping, are likely healthy on many levels.
If you are ready to experience the benefits of camping, there isn't much left of summer, so make sure you enjoy it!