Go camping – for the good of your health

By February 8, 2017

The reasons why we go camping are many and varied; to escape our urban lives, an affordable break, to spend quality time with friends and family.
Most of us find camping relaxing and a great way to turn down the stress levels.

But now it’s official.  Camping is good for you.

At least, that is, according to scientists in the USA.

The scientists have discovered camping can be good for your health by helping to reset your body clock.  Another reason, if you needed one, why you should pack up the tent this weekend and head out into the wilderness. So if you are thinking of camping, why not check out the best places to camp in the UK and which is the best tents to buy in 2017.

What’s the Science?

Dr Kenneth Wright and a team of researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder monitored volunteers they sent on camping trips into the Colorado Rocky Mountains.  Their aim was to see how modern living has impacted on the timing of our internal clocks and when, and for how long, we sleep.

The first set of volunteers was sent into the mountains in December with no electrical lighting or modern gadgets, to see how they would react to only being exposed to natural light.

On their return, researchers found the intrepid campers had slept longer, gone to bed earlier and were more active in the daytime.

Monitoring them in the lab it was found the volunteer’s levels of melatonin (sleep hormone) began to rise two and a half hours earlier than normal to show their body clock (circadian clock) had reset itself to a healthier pattern by preparing the body for sleep earlier.

Building on the initial findings

Another group of volunteers were sent to the mountains in the summer months, but this time they were allowed to take torches with them, whilst another group of stay at home volunteers were also monitored.

Unsurprisingly, the campers were exposed to four times as much natural light and went to bed much earlier than those who stayed at home with the modern convenience of artificial light.

This proves what exactly?

Although it wasn’t an especially large scale study, the experiment does show the impact of the modern environment and lifestyle on our body clocks.

Why are our body, or circadian clocks, so important?

We all have a 24-hour circadian cycle which influences the physiological processes of our body.  It basically tells us when we should eat and sleep and can determine our mood, strength and general wellbeing.

The clock can be altered by artificial light and electronic gadgets which keep us awake (video games) or wake us (alarm clocks) before we are ready.  Disrupting our sleep patterns, not getting enough sleep or staying up too late, restricts our exposure to natural light whilst throwing our body clocks out of sync.  This can lead to sleepiness and ill health.

What do the scientists say?

Quoted in the Guardian, Dr Wright said: “Our modern environment has really changed the timing of our internal clocks, but also the timing of when we sleep relative to our clock.”

“A weekend camping trip can reset the clock rapidly.”

Speaking about the experiment he went on to say: ““Even with a small number of people we saw robust effects.

“It was the same for everyone. How our circadian clock responds to the natural light-dark cycle is part of our fundamental physiology.”

Camping really is good for you, just make sure you get out for a hike and hit the rucksack early.

What if I’m not going camping this weekend?

No worries, if you can’t pitch a tent this weekend Dr Wright has some useful advice.

“If our goal is to have people sleeping at reasonable times so they’re not asleep at work and school, there are things we can do in our daily lives.

“We would recommend getting more natural sunlight, and that could be starting the day with a walk outside, or bringing more light indoors if you can, or sitting by a window. As important, though, is to dim the lights at night,” he said.

So know you are going camping, why not its good for you. Check out 27 delicious recipes to try on your next camping trip, but before you do go, why not check out some camping safety tips and tricks.

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