Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Beneficial Effects of Camping on Physical and Mental Health


In recent years camping has surged in popularity, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. Over the past two years, more than 15 million Americans embarked on their first camping experience, as revealed by The Dyrt’s 2023 camping report. Many people enjoy camping for a range of reasons, including the diverse physical and mental health benefits it provides.

Camping inherently demands participation in physical activity that benefits overall health by improving fitness level. Erecting tents, gathering firewood, and trekking to the campsite all require physical effort. Camping also encourages people to engage in physically engaging outdoor activities and sports that may not be part of their regular routines at home. In 2019, 51 percent of campers also enjoyed hiking, making it the most popular outdoor activity participated in while camping. Additionally, 37 percent explored canoeing or kayaking on their camping trips, and 30 went went biking, showcasing the diverse physical activities commonly enjoyed when camping.

Spending time outdoors in forested areas while on camping trips compared to unforested urban areas can help to combat harmful inflammation in the body, which is likely due in part to exposure to cleaner air. Studies conducted in China revealed that forest bathing, known as shinrin-yoku, or spending time in a forest environment, effectively reduces proinflammatory cytokines, proteins within the immune system. These findings were evident among participants during overnight camping excursions. The research highlighted a decrease in cytokines linked to conditions like arthritis, asthma, and Crohn's disease following a two-night forest trip compared to a control group. Additionally, a separate study involving elderly patients showed a decline in pro-inflammatory factors associated with cardiovascular ailments after a seven-day forest retreat.

Embarking on a camping vacation to spend time in nature provides an escape from the stress-inducing demands of work and the hustle of modern life. Numerous studies have concluded that immersing oneself in nature on overnight forest trips reduces stress markers like cortisol. According to research conducted in Taiwan, participants who experienced an overnight forest bathing trip displayed notably lower stress levels compared to those in an urban setting. This study measured participants’ levels of salivary α-amylase, an enzyme that can be assessed as a stress indicator.

A study exploring the impact of nature-based therapy for the treatment of anxiety and depression in chronic stroke patients highlights the potential effectiveness of camping for improved mental health. Researchers discovered reduced levels of anxiety and depression in participants after a four-day therapy session conducted in a recreational forest area. Interestingly, members of the control group who underwent the same therapy in an urban environment reported heightened indicators of anxiety and depression.

Studies from the University of Essex have emphasized that immersion in natural surroundings doesn’t just reduce depression, but can also act as a preventive measure. Exposure to nature fosters healthy stress responses and crucial recovery patterns for mental well-being. Additionally, a Danish study highlighted that access to green spaces during early childhood is linked to a decreased risk of psychiatric disorders like depression from adolescence into adulthood, underscoring the long-term mental health benefits of exposure to natural environments.

Camping also presents a potential means to boost health by helping to regulate important body functions. By spending time outdoors and being exposed to sunlight and its natural cycle, camping aids in rebalancing melatonin levels and resetting the body’s natural internal body clock or circadian rhythm. Maintaining a steady circadian rhythm regulates the sleep cycle, hormone production, body temperature, and digestion.

Beneficial Effects of Camping on Physical and Mental Health

  In recent years camping has surged in popularity, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. Over the past two years, more than 15 million...