As trekkers or campers we know that we enjoy being outdoors. The fresh air and sounds of nature does something for us that is hard to put in words. This isn’t imaginary, there are real physical benefits of outdoor activities. The benefits of camping and trekking run the gamut from eating good food to a cardio workout. Outdoor activities should be included in everyone’s exercise routine.
Hiking and trekking offers many benefits. The act of walking over long distances often carrying a backpack is an impressive cardio workout. Walking over uneven terrain, up hills and keeping your balance going down hills works the muscles of your legs and hips. It raises your heart rate without spiking it to make you feel like you’re running. This steady state cardio is an effective way to lower your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Hiking on a regular basis is an excellent way to exercise and enjoy nature.
Trekking offers us the chance for a cardio workout we don’t mind doing. Many people complain that running hurts their knees or is just plain boring. Trekking up a mountain is anything but. We push ourselves to get to the top of a mountain trail and are rewarded with a stunning view of the landscape. It’s an instant form of gratification.
Getting out of the city and camping is a great way to lower the stress of everyday life. When you’re outdoors in the fresh air and sun, it’s easy to let the worries of the work week melt away. We live stressful lives, work, children, bills etc. Getting out of the city and spending time in a tent with no deadlines, cell phones or responsibilities goes a long way to improving your mood. It raises your serotonin, oxygen and melatonin levels.
Stress can also lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. Lowering the stress in our lives is essential to living a long happy life.
I mentioned earlier how hiking can increase your cardio but it has other benefits to your physical fitness. Unlike a typical gym workout, camping and long treks are functional. This means that you’re getting a workout by moving your body doing real multi joint movements. You’re setting up your tent. Chopping wood or gathering wood. Carrying a pack of supplies on a multi-day journey. All these things contribute to your functional fitness and prepare you for the tasks of everyday life. You will burn calories camping, even if you spend the evening enjoying s’mores.
Though it isn’t a strict rule, you will often eat less, or at least eat more wholesome meals when camping. There are no options for ordering fast food and you only have the food you brought with you. Besides this you are cooking over a fire, or campstove, with whole ingredients. No preservatives. There is evidence that the kind of food you eat has a link to your mental health. Combine the delicious, nutrient rich food you have while camping and the great outdoors and you have a winning recipe.
Developing New Skills
When camping we often use skills we don’t normally get to practice. Things like lighting a fire, cooking over a fire, carving wood and a number of others. Using and developing these skills work our brain plasticity. Like the muscles in our arms and legs our brains need to workout. If we are always stressed, and don’t learn new skills or practice the skills we know our minds get sluggish. And there is something satisfying about learning a new skill or using a skill we haven’t had the opportunity to practice in a long time.
Getting in Touch With Nature
There’s something about sitting by a fire and looking up at the night sky to see millions of stars you wouldn’t notice in the city. Or getting up with the sunrise and feeling rested as you watch the mist roll off a serene lake. These moments can’t be matched. You won’t feel this same connection to the natural world around you in the city or suburbia. Going on a long trek, over days or weeks through stunning landscapes will have you feeling both in touch with nature and humble you. Feeling this connection may make you come home inspired to live a more fulfilling life, or get involved with environmental causes.
Connect With Your Family and Friends
This is less a physical benefit and more of an emotional one. Though healthy relationships with your loved ones can definitely have a benefit for your mental health. When you share the experience of camping or hiking with your friends or family you build memories and strengthen the bonds between you. Camping on a cool fall day in an insulated tent will create a bond that can’t be created sitting in front of the tv. Showing your kids camping skills is rewarding for both of you. The time you spend together is deliberate. You aren’t distracted by electronics or work. You’re spending meaningful time together. You may create an experience your kids will want to pass on to their children. These are the memories they will carry with them into adulthood.
Many of us know how we feel when we get away from it all for a hike or a camping trip. We know we come back feeling recharged and rested. We may not understand all the reasons why. There are physical benefits to outdoor activities, more than I’ve listed here. In short camping and trekking can be a fun part of living a healthy life.