Five unexpected wellbeing benefits from camping

Ah, the great outdoors. Breathing in fresh air. Swimming in streams. Getting your hands a bit muddy – it’s all good. There are few folks who come back from spending time in nature without feeling its positive effects. No wonder some call it the ‘Natural Health Service’.

And yet, for many of us, enjoying nature doesn’t happen as often as it should. Even when we do lace up our walking boots for a jaunt in the country, it’s only for a couple of hours before heading back to computers and commuting and weekend boozing.

Camping holidays are different, though. As well as the fun of getting away, being outside and active for an extended period has major wellbeing benefits – from simple destressing to improved immune system function. Here are our five favourite health boosts that camping brings you.

1. Time away from tech

There’s no time for Netflix or Instagram when the tent needs putting up, the fire needs lighting and that mountain needs climbing. Of course, with many of us being at the mercy of tech in some way, you might still find yourself scrolling in the quieter moments.

So Jo Usmar, author of wellbeing series This Book Will Make You…, suggests taking a ‘dumbphone’ with you – as in an old-fashioned phone with no internet access. You have no option but to clock off, but can still be contacted (or contact someone) in case of an emergency. Ocado deliveries don’t count.

Consciously disconnecting might feel hard at first, but it won’t take long before you feel more relaxed and ‘present’, paying greater attention to your surroundings and the people you’ve gone with – the reasons why you went camping in the first place!

2. Better sleep

Ever have trouble dropping off at night? That might be because of all the artificial light you’re exposing yourself to before you go to bed. The villain is ‘blue light’ emitted from phones, laptops and TVs.

According to Usmar, blue light reduces the amount of the natural sleep hormone melatonin in our systems, making it harder to doze off as we’re tricked into thinking it’s still daytime.

Sleeping outdoors for a few days, without the artificial light of tech, can help reset your natural body clock so you fall asleep much more easily at the right sort of time. Better-quality sleep improves your mood and concentration, which means more fun while camping.

3. You have to exercise!

Setting up your space, lifting gear, pitching tents: there’s always some sort of physical activity when camping. Certainly a lot more than most of us are used to, sat at desks, on sofas or in cars. The pluses of keeping the body moving are many.

One of the less obvious benefits is that exercise while camping gives us a sense of purpose we’re often missing in our lives. Finding wood, making flames, keeping people warm – it’s a sure-fire way to bond with your fellow campers.

Cooking will certainly do that too. Especially if you caught lunch in the lake. “There’s something inordinately satisfying,” Usmar says, “about taking care of your basic survival necessities, securing shelter, food and water.”

Not all camping trips are wild, of course. But with camping come activities, often of the physical variety, like rambling, kayaking, or playing Poohsticks in a stream. Even better, all these challenges create a feeling of camaraderie, and usually one or two good stories to share and remember with family and friends.

Join the club!

Discover the wellbeing benefits of regular camping by joining the 700,000+ members of the Camping and Caravanning Club today. Its growing community of friendly enthusiasts enjoy exclusive access to 1,200+ member-only campsites and an extensive network of Club Sites from the Highlands of Scotland right down to Land’s End.

Drawing on more than 120 years of expertise, the Camping and Caravanning Club’s portfolio includes high-quality, hand-picked member-only Certificated Sites, specially selected Camping in the Forest spots, Self Catering lodges, pre-pitched Ready Camp options as well as Club Sites.

Sign up today for exclusive member discounts and perks, including up to 30% off Club Site fees, and up to 50% off days out and attractions.

4. Improving your immune system

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that being in nature, even for a short time, is good for your overall wellbeing. Less stress and anxiety, more concentration and a better mood – hallelujah!

But Dr Sam Gandy, an ecologist and expert on nature connectedness, says that going camping in natural surroundings, just for a day or two, can also improve the function of your immune system.

Research shows that people who spend an extended period outdoors can increase their levels of white blood cells – vital for fighting infection – for up to a month. Factors at work here include the vitamin D we get from exposure to sunlight and health-giving essential oils emitted by trees – both of which are good for our immune systems.

5. Better concentration

Dr Gandy also makes the case for benefiting from Attention Restoration Theory, which claims that your powers of concentration, often depleted by the strains of modern living, can be restored by having contact with nature. And being outdoors can also boost positive emotions and look after your mental wellbeing.

It’s partly to do with the benefits of mindfulness, which some might find easier to experience by getting out into the countryside and contemplating their surroundings rather than, for example, through meditation.

As Dr Gandy says: “It’s very easy to be mindful in nature. You’re plugged into a more ‘present moment’ state. You’re taking a lot in, but nothing is too demanding. It allows you to recuperate.”

Happy campers

A recent report based on a review of research into the psychological and social benefits of camping revealed that:

  • 93% of campers said camping can make you feel happier
  • 8 in 10 campers feel that camping brings you closer together as a family
  • 97% of campers say camping generates happy memories
  • 73% of campers say camping is a great way to make new friends
  • 76% of campers are satisfied with their quality of life compared to 59% of non-campers

Read more about the Real Richness report here.

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