Healthy camping!

Anyone who’s enjoyed RV’ing and camping knows the deep sense of happiness that life on the road and camping brings.

Camping has at least 14 health benefits! Almost all camping can be considered to be healthy camping, due to the nature of the activities and lifestyle it promotes.

This isn’t just hearsay or make-believe—over 50 scientific studies back up these claims about camping’s health benefits.

Scientists have pinpointed at least 14 health perks of camping. These in include physical health, mental and emotional well-being, and social and emotional bonds.

Camping healthily mixes exercise and chill time, adding up to total wellness.

a beautiful view of smith rock state park with river running through the park
Smith Rock State Park, Oregon

Studies show that doing stuff like hanging out in nature, getting active, and taking a break from all the tech in our daily lives through RV travel and camping can seriously boost your mental and physical health.

Other research points out that we’re wired to love nature, and it’s a great way to chill out and sharpen up our focus.

Doctors are even prescribing “green” or “nature prescriptions” to encourage people to spend time outdoors to realize these health benefits. (Stanhope and Weinstein, 2023)

Experts recommend healthy camping as a way to improve mental health, reduce stress, and increase happiness.

In this article

Research on the Health Benefits of Camping

The Biophilia Hypothesis, Attention Restoration Theory, and Stress Reduction Theory all explain why nature has such a positive effect on us.

  • The Biophilia Hypothesis suggests that humans are naturally and genetically connected to nature, and that this connection also affects our feelings. (Gaekwad et al., 2022)
  • The Attention Restoration Theory suggests that the tiredness we feel from today’s busy life happens because we run out of the ability to focus. But, if we spend time in nature, it can help us get back our ability to pay attention and overcome this tiredness. (Kaplan and Kaplan, 1989)
  • The Stress Reduction Theory explains that being in nature can make us feel calmer and less stressed by activating a part of our nervous system that relaxes us. This happens because we naturally feel a connection to the natural world. (Ulrich, 1984).

Let’s dig into the scientific research on how various aspects of RV travel and camping contribute to your well-being through:

Physical health benefits of camping

  1. Promoting heart health
  2. Improving sleep quality
  3. Increasing vitamin D levels
  4. Encouraging physical activity
  5. Boosting immune systems
  6. Increasing surgical healing

Mental and emotional health benefits of camping

  1. Reducing stress
  2. Improving mood and anxiety levels
  3. Decreasing depression
  4. Increasing life satisfaction and psychological restoration
  5. Enhancing focus and brain cognitive function
  6. Fostering creativity

Social and emotional connection benefits of camping

  1. Strengthening relationships
  2. Fostering gratitude and kindness

Read below for each of these 14 health benefits of camping and RV travel.

If you want to learn more, links are provided to the original research publications.

san juan national forest forest service road hiking with dog can bring you back to nature, which is one of the health benefits of camping and healthy camping
Hiking in the San Juan National Forest, Colorado

Physical Health Benefits of Camping

1. Promoting Heart Health through Healthy Camping

Walking around in nature and chilling in the calm vibe of camping can help drop your blood pressure. It can also make your heart happy, according to studies from Japan and other places.

Getting into the active side of RV life, like hiking and getting your campsite ready, is also great for keeping your heart in shape. Experts say that getting into fun stuff like kayaking and mountain biking while camping can really pump up your heart health.

What the research says about the benefits of camping for promoting heart health:

  • Doctors or social workers writing “nature prescriptions” – basically telling folks to spend time outdoors – have been shown to lower blood pressure and boost mental health. A look at 92 different studies found that people who got on board with nature prescriptions saw their blood pressure numbers drop and felt less depressed and anxious. Plus, they too more steps every day. (Nguyen, 2023)
  • Digging into more than 40 studies, researchers found solid proof that hanging out in nature can chill out your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and cut down on stress vibes. It turns out, getting back to nature really does dial back the stress. (Kondo, et al., 2018)
  • A deep dive into 52 studies from Japan shows pretty clear evidence that just being in nature can bring down blood pressure for everyone, whether you’re already fit as a fiddle or dealing with high blood pressure. (Song et al., 2016)
  • Looking into how chilling in the forest affects blood pressure, research covering 20 trials with 732 people found that both the upper (systolic) and lower (diastolic) blood pressure readings were way lower in forest spots compared to city scenes. (Ideno et al., 2017)
  • A study discovered that taking strolls in the forest can do wonders for your heart and stress levels. For 16 healthy guys, just a day out in a forest park managed to bring down their blood pressure and stress hormones, while giving the good hormones a boost. (Li et al., 2011)
  • Checking out 31 studies on “green prescriptions” turned up some good news. For psychological health and happiness, 16 out of 24 studies reported thumbs-up results. When it comes to heart and metabolic health, 5 out of 9 studies found benefits. Physical activity levels got a boost in 8 out of 9 studies, and even inflammation was tackled according to all 2 studies that looked into it. (Adewuyi et al., 2023)
footprints in sand help people relax and bring other health benefits of being in nature
Footprints in the sand along the Oregon Coast

Read about Fort de Soto State Park in Florida, where you can camp right next to the ocean.

2. Improving Sleep Quality through Healthy Camping

Camping out in nature can really up your sleep game, with all that outdoor peace helping you catch some solid Z’s.

Studies have found that camping can get your sleep schedule on track, syncing up with when the sun pops up and drops. This is a big win for your overall health and another cool perk of camping.

What the research says about the benefits of camping for improving sleep quality:

  • New studies point out that hanging around green spots, like forests, can actually help adults catch better Z’s. (Shin et al., 2020)
  • A large survey found that in the U.S., adults who are around nature, like parks, lakes, and oceans, often say they sleep better. This was especially true for men and people older than 65. (Grigsby-Toussaint et al., 2015)
Open road with snow on either side of the road, giving a sense of freedom as a health benefit of healthy camping
The open road in winter

3. Increasing Vitamin D Levels through Healthy Camping

Getting active outdoors boosts your vitamin D levels, super important for keeping your bones strong and your immune system humming.

Living the RV and camping life amps up the time you spend outside, which means more vitamin D for you.

A cool perk of camping that doesn’t get enough shoutouts is how it gets you more sunshine, cranking up your body’s vitamin D making machine.

What the research says about the benefits of camping for vitamin D:

  • Vitamin D comes with a bunch of health perks. Studies show that folks who hang out outside more often have higher vitamin D levels than the indoor crowd. (Sowah, et al., 2017)
  • A study discovered that people with depression often have lower vitamin D levels, thanks to less time in the sun. Getting out more and soaking up some rays can bump up those vitamin D levels and boost overall mood and health. (Jahrami et al., 2020)
Autumn leaves in the San Juan Mountains can help people feel calm and is a great place to go camping
Autumn leaves in the San Juan Mountains

4. Encouraging Physical Activity through Healthy Camping

Just being outside in the great outdoors nudges us to get moving. Even the basic stuff, like setting up your campsite, gets you active. Embracing the camping life means mixing in daily exercises like hiking and kayaking into your routine.

And the outdoors has this cool way of making us want to move more, with stuff like hiking, biking, and exploring new sights.

Camping the healthy way is all about diving into outdoor fun that ramps up your fitness level and gets you up close and personal with nature.

What the research says about the benefits of camping for physical activity:

  • A study looked at how outdoor fun, including kayaking and hiking, affected the fitness of 41 adults. Turns out, their overall fitness levels went up (not really surprising!). (Hian et al., 2016)
  • A study checked out how much our back (lumbar) and thigh (rectus femoris) muscles work when we get into and out of RVs compared to regular cars. Turns out, muscle activity kicked up a notch when folks were climbing into RVs and stepping out of passenger cars. (Kim and Lee, 2011)

5. Boosting Immune Systems through Healthy Camping

Hitting the great outdoors does more than chill you out—it boosts your immune system.

Just a single day in the forest can give your immune system a lift, really showing off how nature plays a big part in keeping us healthy.

What the research says about the benefits of camping for boosting immune systems:

  • A deep dive into studies over 20 years was done to see how getting out into nature directly impacts our physical health. Although the findings were a mix, most pointed to good stuff happening—like better brain function, heart health, hormone balance, and immune system boosts. (Haluza et al., 2014)
  • Studies in Japan found that taking a 3-day trip to the forest can amp up your immune system, bumping up cells that battle illness. This boost can stick around for up to a month, possibly because the forest air is packed with plant chemicals that dial down stress and beef up your body’s defenses. And it turns out, even just a day in the woods can up your levels of cancer-fighting proteins. (Li et al., 2007)
wildflowers in the san juan mountains help people relax and enjoy nature, often a part of healthy camping
Wildflowers in the San Juan mountains in Colorado

6. Increasing Surgical Healing through Healthy Camping

For folks who love RVing, this shines a light on the health perks of being around nature—not just for the fun of it, but also for its potential to help us heal physically and maybe even cut down on meds.

It’s a strong nudge about the healing power of nature that many of us feel while on our journeys. Definitely a fascinating health plus of camping.

What the research says about the benefits of camping for surgical healing:

  • Roger Ulrich, an American researcher, conducted a famous study showing that surgery patients healed quicker if they could see trees from their room, compared to those staring at a brick wall. Those lucky enough to have a tree view also complained less and needed fewer painkillers. (Ulrich, 1984)
trail through huge redwood trees can help people feel calm. Hiking is a common activity while camping.
Finding solace in the Redwoods National Forest in California

Mental and Emotional Health Benefits of Camping

7. Reducing Stress through Healthy Camping

The calm vibes of nature seriously cut down on stress. Camping healthily acts like a natural chill pill, with the peacefulness of the outdoors setting the scene for some solid relaxation and revival.

Studies have shown that being outside lowers cortisol levels (that’s the stress hormone), turning RV travel and camping into a powerful way to counter the stress of today’s busy world.

What the research says about the benefits of camping for reducing stress:

  • Research digging into 52 articles from Japan on nature’s impact on us discovered solid evidence that being in natural environments can drop cortisol levels. A good chunk of these studies revealed that when folks did some light to moderate exercise in nature, rather than in urban areas, their cortisol (aka the stress hormone) levels took a bigger dip. (Song et al., 2016)
  • In research on forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, scientists found that adults dealing with chronic stress felt less hostile, depressed, and anxious after spending time in the woods. (Morita et al., 2007)
  • Studies suggest that nature beats urban settings when it comes to bouncing back from stress and mental tiredness. This backs up the thought that natural spots can lift our spirits, ease stress signs, and sharpen our focus. (Berto, 2014)
  • A study with 25 people, looking at salivary cortisol (a sign of stress), showed that being around more greenery is tied to less stress. (Haluza et al., 2014)
  • Research tapping into the National Land Cover Dataset reveals that hanging out with trees every day majorly boosts health stuff, like physical condition, overall happiness, and handling stress better. (Jiang et al., 2020)
  • In Japan, research revealed that while both real plants and pictures of plants brought on feelings of relaxation, only the real deal—actual plants—boosted oxygen levels in the brain. This suggests that real plants offer unique benefits for brain activity. (Igarashi, et al., 2014)
woman hiking on a trail in los glaciares national park argentina to help improve health
Hiking in Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina

8. Improving Mood and Anxiety Levels through Healthy Camping

Research shows that getting out in nature, like through camping, can totally boost your mood and dial down anxiety levels. For lots of folks, healthy camping is all about soaking in nature’s goodness and living that healthy life.

Mental health pros often suggest healthy camping as a chill way to tackle stress and anxiety, showing how awesome it is to be outside.

What the research says about the benefits of camping for improving mood and anxiety:

  • A study with 3,060 Finnish folks discovered that doing stuff out in nature can totally lift your mood, all thanks to those calming vibes you get. (Korpela et al., 2014)
  • Researchers checked in with 38 people before and after they did three different things: took a 50-minute stroll in a forest, walked along a busy road for the same amount of time, and just did their regular daily stuff. Turns out, hitting the forest trail had the best effect on their mood, anxiety, stress levels, and even memory. (Koselka et al., 2019)
  • Studies discovered that people who get active outside tend to feel way less anxious and more in tune with nature compared to those who stick to indoor workouts. (Lawton et al., 2017)
View overlooking Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah provides a sense of calm and oneness with nature for health benefits
Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah

9. Decreasing Depression through Healthy Camping

Researchers have figured out that spending time in nature can seriously lower depression levels, along with a bunch of other health perks.

Taking a break from the daily grind and diving into the tranquility of healthy camping can make a real difference in easing depression symptoms.

What the research says about the benefits of camping for decreasing depression:

  • A study found that a six-week program based in wetlands worked wonders for folks dealing with depression and anxiety. After participating, they reported feeling way better overall—less anxious, less stressed, and emotionally healthier. And that’s not all! They also noticed improvements in their physical health and felt less socially isolated. (Maund, et al., 2019)
  • Using data from a bunch of American adults, researchers discovered that those who spent 5–8 hours outdoors on weekends were less likely to feel even a hint of depression, compared to folks who barely spent any time outside—less than 30 minutes—during the weekend.(Beyer et al., 2016)
  • A research study found that nature-based therapy has a great impact on mental health and really strengthens folks’ bond with nature. They looked into it using a mixed-method approach with psychosomatic patients, and what they found was pretty cool: Depression levels dropped noticeably, mental well-being improved, and people felt even more connected to nature. (Joschko et al., 2023)
  • Researchers checked out Surf Therapy and Hike Therapy as treatments for depression among 96 service members dealing with Major Depressive Disorder. Turns out, both approaches brought about some serious improvement in depressive symptoms. (Walter et al., 2023)
  • Exercising outside can really lift the mood and boost energy levels, especially for people dealing with mild to moderate depression. In fact, a study with 14 patients found that outdoor activities sparked more excitement and energy compared to exercising indoors. (Fruhauf et al., 2016)
  • Research from the Growing Up Today Study in the U.S. found that having more access to green spaces during childhood was linked to a lower likelihood of experiencing severe depression symptoms later on. (Bezold et al., 2018)
  • In a study spanning four European cities, researchers found that adults who had less exposure to nature during their childhood had poorer mental health outcomes. They reported higher rates of nervousness and depression compared to those who had more exposure to nature during their youth. (Preub et al., 2019)
colorado sunset with pink sky reminds us of natural beauty we often see while healthy camping
A sunset in Colorado

10. Increasing Life Satisfaction and Psychological Restoration through Healthy Camping

People who spend more time outdoors, whether through camping or other outdoor activities, tend to feel more satisfied with life and experience greater psychological restoration.

The simplicity and stripped-back approach of healthy camping can help people reset their priorities, fostering a sense of gratitude and overall higher life satisfaction.

All these mental and emotional perks of camping can really make a difference and boost a person’s overall sense of well-being.

What the research says about the benefits of camping for increasing life satisfaction and psychological restoration:

  • A research study uncovered that camping does wonders for mental health by offering a sense of freedom and adventure. (Rodriguez, 2017)
  • A study with 563 American workers found that traveling can really up your life satisfaction. It’s all about taking charge of what you do, feeling chilled out and work-free, and diving into new, exciting experiences. (Chen, 2018)
  • A study with 4,515 people discovered that people felt way more connected to nature and got a bigger mental boost from trips to rural and coastal spots compared to urban green spaces. (Haluza et al., 2014)
  • Research involving 19,806 participants from the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment Survey in England revealed that spending just 120 minutes per week in nature is associated with higher self-reported health and well-being. (White et al., 2019)
  • A research study discovered that participating in physical activity in natural settings such as forests or parks is connected to a reduced risk of experiencing poor mental health, in contrast to exercising in non-natural environments. (Mitchell, 2013)
  • Five studies found that spending time outdoors, particularly in natural rather than urban settings, significantly makes people feel more energetic and alive when they are in nature. (Ryan et al., 2010)
  • A long-term research study following about one million people in Denmark over 28 years found that having a lot of green spaces around during childhood was linked to a lower chance of developing various psychiatric disorders later in life. (Engemann et al., 2019)
Man hiking to San Luis Peak in Colorado, high up in the mountains
Hike to San Luis Peak in Colorado

11. Enhancing Focus and Brain Cognitive Function through Healthy Camping

Chilling out in nature isn’t just about kicking back—science shows that it actually helps us concentrate better and think sharper.

Healthy camping is all about giving our minds a break from the noise of modern life. Camping is great for keeping our minds clear and focused.

What the research says about the benefits of camping for enhancing focus and cognitive function:

  • Research experiments have proven that even short trips to nature can boost adults’ attention, executive function, and sense of rejuvenation. And it’s not just a one-time thing—being in natural settings, as opposed to urban ones, consistently brings these cognitive and emotional perks. (Jimenez et al., 2021)
  • Research suggests that hanging out in nature does wonders for our brains and mood. It boosts brain function, lowers blood pressure, lifts our spirits, gets us moving, and even helps us sleep better. (Jimenez et al., 2021)
  • Two experiments show that both taking a stroll in nature and simply looking at pictures of nature can boost our attention abilities. (Berman et al., 2008)
  • Research in Finland found that simply taking walks in nature, whether it’s in forests or urban parks, perks up attention and mood, especially if you’re feeling stressed. It shows that being in nature is a great mental health booster, no extra activities needed. (Pasanen, et al., 2018)
  • 25 research studies found that conducting physical activities in natural settings offers more benefits to attention and emotional well-being than those in indoor or built environments. (Bowler et al., 2010)
  • A study with 60 adults had them walk for 50 minutes in natural and urban spots in California. The nature crew showed better working memory, less anxiety, fewer negative thoughts, and hung onto positive vibes more effectively. It just goes to show how spending time in green spaces can seriously boost both your mood and brainpower. (Bratman et al., 2015)
  • Three experiments found that watching nature videos can really amp up our brain’s ability to handle thoughts and actions, way more than watching urban videos. Turns out, nature scenes give our cognitive skills a boost, showing that even a quick glimpse of the great outdoors can do wonders for our mental game. (Bourrier el al., 2018)

12. Fostering Creativity through Healthy Camping

When you step away from screens and get outside, nature boosts your creativity.

Research shows that if you feel stuck, take a break outside, ditch your devices, and let nature spark your imagination.

What the research says about the benefits of camping for fostering creativity:

  • In a study, people spent four days out in nature, ditching their tech. The result? Their creativity and problem-solving skills shot up by 50%. (Atchley et al., 2012)
View of Tumalo Falls in Oregon in the winter with snow on the ground
Tumalo Falls in Oregon

Social and Emotional Connection Benefits of Camping

13. Strengthening Relationships through Healthy Camping

If you want to improve your relationships, go camping. It helps you 1) get closer to your friends and family; 2) improve communication, and 3) make lasting memories together.

What the research says about the benefits of camping for strengthening relationships:

  • A research study found that camping is a great chance for couples and friends to tighten their bonds. Folks loved the peace and chill vibes of nature, felt like they were on an adventure, and dug being away from the same old scene. (Morrow et al., 2014)
  • Recent research highlights how travel fosters family bonding, communication, and stability, particularly in the face of increasing career demands and changing family structures. (Durko and Petrick, 2013)

14. Fostering Gratitude and Kindness through Healthy Camping

Being out in nature, like when you’re RV camping, can really amp up your gratitude and kindness.

Feeling these good vibes makes life more awesome and satisfying, showing how the RV lifestyle brings some serious emotional perks.

What the research says about the benefits of camping for fostering gratitude and kindness:

  • Being in nature makes people think more about their community and less about themselves. When you’re in nature, you start feeling connected to the environment, which makes you care more about your community and less about just doing what’s best for you. (Weinstein et al., 2009)

The Big Picture: A Comprehensive Path to Wellness

Camping isn’t just about adventure—it’s also about taking care of yourself in every way.

So, go camping for your health! Every trip brings health and happiness. Camping is where it’s at for good vibes and good health!