This subsequent article relating the many health and well being benefits of camping, or roughing-it, should be read in conjunction with this previous the article “Camping Hiking Gear“, which should be read first, prior to reading this one. Learning about natural health cures, living close to nature and spending time outside camping, or roughing-it, or doing other activities, has significant and wide-ranging health benefits, according to new and extensive research, which we will discuss here. A new report reveals that exposure to nature and green space reduces the risk of many serious health conditions, including type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, high blood pressure, and mental and emotional issues. Here is a quote from the Dalai Lama which says it all:
Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that’s very important for good health.
Re-Centering, Being Mindful, and Meditating
Our lives are busier than ever with a career, or school, and family life, in our 24-7 technological-driven, fast-paced world. Trying to focus on many activities, or even a single activity, for long periods of time can drain you physically and mentally. Spending time in nature, looking at plants, water, nature’s creatures, and other aspects of nature, gives the cognitive portion of our brain a break, allowing us to re-center and focus better, and renew our ability to be patient and appreciative.
In addition to stress relief, which we’ll cover shortly, you can achieve peace of mind when you spend time in the outdoors because it allows you to escape the responsibilities of your daily life. Although you have to be just as responsible in nature, but on a somewhat different level. This activity provides you with a mindful and meditative experience that you won’t soon forget. You can clear your mind and focus on what you’re experiencing in the current time, at the current moment. There are no worries about the past, or any concern for the future.
It’s important to experience peace of mind as much as possible, because it helps to bring you back to a place of clarity and calmness. You’ll find this will help with your mood, as well as your ability to relax and actually achieve uninterrupted sleep at night. As human beings, we’re wired for wonder, we feel compelled to stop and soak up the sunset, or gaze up at the stars, or look at a majestic Bald Eagle soaring, like we related in “Camping Hiking Gear” article, and there’s no better place to do that than being out in the wilderness, camping or roughing-it. Research even suggests that awe-inspiring moments can make us happier and even creative.
Reduces Stress and Improves Physical Health
While we breathe in fresh air, we breathe in phytonutrients, or phytoncides, airborne chemicals that plants give off to protect themselves from insects and parasites. Phytoncides have antibacterial and anti-fungal qualities which help plants fight disease. When you breathe in these chemicals, your bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells. These cells kill tumor and virus-infected cells in our bodies. In one Japanese study, increased natural-killer activity from a 3-day, 2-night forest-planned trip lasted for more than 30 days. Japanese researchers are currently exploring whether exposure to forests can help prevent certain kinds of cancer.
Numerous studies show that both physical activity in nature, and simply sitting looking at trees, reduces the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline. One of the health benefits of trees is a natural de-stressing system that can put you at ease and help lower your blood pressure naturally. Trees and plants release oxygen. The more oxygen you breathe in, the more you release serotonin, which makes you feel happy and content. Being in the great outdoors roughing-it, can decrease symptoms of depression, PTSD, and anxiety by up to 71%, which is quite amazing. Vitamin D is also linked to mental illness, particularly depression. One study found that there is a strong presence of vitamin D deficiency in those who suffer from depression. So the more time you spend outside, the more you could help ease these types of symptoms. The stress relief and open air is vital to your mental health because it helps to make you feel stronger, happier, and more relaxed.
In addition, when you breathe in more oxygen, your body experiences less strain and wear-and-tear. Looking at pictures of trees has a similar, but less dramatic, effect. Studies examining the same activities in urban, unplanted areas showed no reduction of stress-related effects though. Using the Profile of Mood States test, as described by Wikipedia, researchers found that forest-going trips significantly decreased the score results for anxiety, depression, anger, confusion, and fatigue. And because stress inhibits the immune system, the stress-reduction benefits of forests and the great outdoors are further magnified.
Healthier and More Effective Exercise
Physical activity, as already mentioned, by itself, tends to improve your mood, and we usually intuitively understand this to be true. With dopamine and endorphins flowing freely when we move our bodies, this positive feedback is often a sought-after reason for chasing down a good workout or hike. Who doesn’t feel good after some good physical activity? Physical activity outdoors, like when you’re camping, makes you feel better than the same physical activity performed indoors. You might think that this requires you to spend a very long time outside or that you have to go on an epic journey through the woods and up over mountain passes to feel the awe and wonder than beautiful Mother Nature has to offer. But actually, this effect can be seen quickly, and even in short amounts of physical activity outdoors, such as the short hike up to the waterfall, related in the previous article, resulting in a wonderful time and more positive feelings.
Physical activity outdoors reduces your rate of perceived exertion. This means, as an example, compared to how you’d feel the over-exertion on a treadmill, but walking the same amount at a brisk pace outdoors may feel less strenuous. Your perception of physical activity and exertion indoors is always higher. Isn’t that something? Occasionally, the sole purpose of physical activity is to enjoy yourself and for fun, and it’s hard to enjoy what you’re doing when it feels like the activity you’re attempting is too hard to continue doing! So, take your fun physical activities outdoors camping or roughing-it, and the natural environment is likely to transform and make it feel much less difficult. By taking some of your physical activity outdoors, you will not only improve your physical activity enjoyment, but also the willingness to continue those activities over and over again. If it’s more likely to make you participate more often, because it makes you happy. This is quite a strong and positive and fulfilling feedback!
A trail run or hike is different from running or walking on a sidewalk or footpath, just as cycling on the road is obviously different from mountain biking. It’s difficult to just go through the motions only when you’re moving outside on a trail, because it’s about nature made and much more interesting. If you were zoned out while running on a sidewalk, not having to think about where you place your foot, you’re not going to be able to enjoy what you’re doing because you’re barely even aware of what you’re doing. Moving on a trail stops you from mindlessly exercising and increases the likelihood that you’ll observe your surroundings in more detail, because you are much more attentive. Walking through the woods is a great idea, whether the scenery is constantly changing or it’s just a change from your urban habitat. The benefits of being outside all day in the sunshine mean that you get more natural vitamin D from the sun’s rays, too. More on that shortly.
Sun, Air Quality and Sleep Benefits
It’s important to be careful about spending too much time in the direct sunlight, as you know. The sun is at its hottest from 9am to 3pm, but being exposed to the less intense sunlight outside of those hours will give you the vitamin D your body needs. Studies have shown that sleeping outdoors can also reset your biological clock, because your body becomes in tune with natural light-dark patterns. Electric light or blue light off of technical devices can delay or alter your natural circadian clock.
But, when you’re exposed to natural light cycles, your circadian clock adjusts and synchronizes to the sunrise and sunset, as nature meant to be. For those of us who aren’t biologists, that means that our body syncs up with the sunrise and the sunset. It helps us to get back to a healthy pattern of going to sleep and waking up at decent times to get the most out of our day and to make it productive. The woods can do wonders for your Zzzzzz’s.
According to a 2013 study on sleep patterns by the University of Colorado Boulder, the more you abide by the Sun’s schedule, the more likely you are to get sleepy and go to bed earlier, and wake up at a reasonable and earlier time. Researchers examined campers for a week and found that sleeping away from artificial light helped reset their circadian rhythems and made them more physically and mentally alert.
As depicted in the previous article, when you and your better-half sleep outside under the stars, next to the cozy, warm campfire, in your double down sleeping bag and inflatable pad, and fall asleep early and wake up early the next morning, remember you two are getting the most beneficial, restful, healthy and restorative sleep possible.
Challenges and Problem Solving Benefits
Another one of nature’s natural health cures, and particularly when you’re camping, is it is always challenging you with problem solving situations, which is good for the health of your brain, and increasing your intelligence. Whether it’s maneuvering your canoe around a rock, or figuring out how to set up your brand new tent, or crossing a stream on a log used as a bridge, or, as related in the “Camping Hiking Gear” article, diving into a beautiful pool of cold, deep blue, crystal-clear water, there are always challenges and unexpected situations you have to handle. It keeps your mind sharp because the problems or situations are never the same. Not ever the same! That simply means there is no opportunity for your brain to become accustomed to one situation or another, or get bored, and it’s always has to be alert and working to figure things out in new ways. When you’re camping or roughing-it, you have to be always ready for those challenges and the unexpected, which will come.
Divorcing From Technology
Seriously, this is probably the most underrated perk of camping, so it’s a point worth driving home. Sometimes you just need to shut off cyberspace and connect to some green space. Research shows that constantly checking your phone could be a sign of mental health problems. Too much screen time may be burning you out and it’s important to power down sometimes and divorce yourself from all forms of technology. It’s not easy to turn away from this kind of stimuli because we are all wired to connect and be social.
The connection that often comes from technology is not only unfulfilling, it’s a false version of an actual connection, a siren call, or buzz, or blinking light, that begins to crowd out the time you have for real connection, with real people and more importantly, nature.
Even worse, it begins to rewire our brains to make us less adept at real connection. Camping or roughing-it, gives you the opportunity to re-establish that real connection away from your iPhone. You’re able to think away from a screen full of distractions so you can return to reality with a clear mind, and that alone is priceless and irreplaceable. If you remember in the previous article, you had willingly turned your cell phone off, and weren’t concerned what time it was, because it really didn’t matter.
Appetite and Eating Healthy
Turns out there are also terrific reasons to head outdoors when you prepare and eat a meal. When you are stressed, you are not paying attention to what you’re eating, and you are not going to enjoy it as much, and you are not going to digest your food as well, that’s just a physiological fact. Luckily, foods always taste better outdoors, especially after you’ve developed an appetite from the day’s physical activities out in nature, and you are starving! So being mentally present when you eat, helps you better notice how pleasurable it is to really enjoy food. In other words, a simple act of mindfulness ends up highlighting something enjoyable. And, here’s the best part. If you choose to hunt, or fish a little, while you’re on your camping trip, just enough for your own consumption, and you’re successful, you will be cooking and eating the best nature can offer health and nutrition-wise. Foods in nature are fresh, high-protein, nutrient-dense, non-polluted, or chemically-enhanced, hormone-free, fish, such as Rainbow trout, as you caught in the mountain lake, related in the previous article. Or freshly-cleaned lean meats, such as wild, naturally-nurtured, and nature-fed birds, like quail, or, even rabbit. And take our word for it, it will taste like a “million bucks!”
A stove, a tent, a campfire, and a sunset, or sunrise, is the healthy formula for appreciating simple food in an uncomplicated environment. Mediocre wine is excellent if you have a beautiful view. Coffee is exponentially more delicious when brewed early, after a night in a tent, and trail mix can compete with the fanciest hors d’oeuvre when you’re in the middle of a hike. It’s really simple, food always tastes better outdoors. There is a certain formula to food when you’re camping, too. Keep it simple, but not to simple.
There is a process. You don’t leave good food when you leave the house, like the organic, cage-free eggs, you scrambled for breakfast, or the fresh veggies out of your garden you brought to make a salad, as related in the previous article, you carry it with you, and it should be a routine and ritual dedicated to appreciating good food always, where ever you are. There is an undeniable connection between good food and being outside that not only gives you time to appreciate nature, but makes food taste so much better in the process. Dig out a healthy apple and peanut butter from your backpack on a hike and it will most certainly taste better than it does when you’re in front of your computer in need of an afternoon snack.
Don’t Leave Your Peruvian Maca At Home
The whole-food, nutrient-dense, Super Food, Peruvian Maca root has become popular due to the many wide-ranging benefits, which include increased energy levels, vitality and endurance, healthy sexual function and libido, reduced anxiety and stress, healthy brain function, and balancing healthy hormone levels to help relieve, as an example, symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes. Not only do you experience increased energy levels with P Maca, but also enhanced stamina, which comes in handy on camping and roughing-it adventures. It also alleviates fatigue and exhaustion that you may be experiencing, and the reason you decided to go on the camping trip in the first place, because you had to get out in the woods to mellow-out. Don’t leave home on your camping trip without your jug of blueberry smoothies with P Maca either, by making sure it’s packed in the Yetti cooler, so, you can have sustained energy for the entire time you are camping.
Balancing hormones with Peruvian Maca eliminates irregularities associated with a weakened immune system, poor circulation, which leads to anemia and poor wound healing, and poor memory and learning. P Maca also improves skin health and reduces signs of aging, and improves bone and teeth health. P Maca is a whole-food and a rich source of calcium and potassium, in addition to trace elements of iron, iodine, copper, manganese, zinc, selenium, magnesium as well as 19 essential amino acids.
Maca powder is also rich in phytonutrients, or phytocides, chemicals for the control of inflammation and harmful invasion of viruses, infections, and even cancers, that add to its long list of confirmed health benefits. So actually, with the use of P Maca, and being out in Mother Nature, you are getting double protection from these harmful invasions!
So let’s us regain control and start once again actually using our common sense, like our forefathers did. It seems of late that there have been a lot of discoveries of new “super foods” such as cruciferous vegetables. In actuality these foods have always been “super”, and always been there, like Peruvian Maca, the only thing that is different is now we have research to prove that nature is packed full of nutritious and healing foods, besides all the other health benefits we’ve outlined here. Cultures around the world for thousands of years have known that their locally grown natural foods offer up much more than just a tasty dinner. But it wasn’t until recent globalization that we could all be so lucky as to have access to such a wonderful array of healthy foods from every corner of the planet.
So, now that you learned about nature’s natural health cures and all of the tremendous health benefits that can be derived, by visiting nature often, either by camping, or other activities, absolutely as much as you can, are you going to do it? We are very interested in your comments, and any questions you may have.
We leave you with quote by Joseph Campbell:
The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.
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