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Boost your physical, mental health by going camping

In the great outdoors, there is a lot you can do that does not require electricity, computers, tablets or televisions.

GOING camping is not only enjoyable but has many health benefits, enabling us to enjoy fresh air and have plenty of exercise that we probably lack if we spend most of our time indoors at work and at home.

It is good for both our physical and mental health, giving us a break from our normal routine. It allows us to commune with nature and keep away from the electronic gadgets that seem to preoccupy us and our children and keep us indoors in our towns and cities.

Camping is a great chance for everyone to unplug and get away from their screens. In the great outdoors, there is a lot you can do that does not require electricity, computers, tablets or televisions.

It is, especially, good for young people who often spend an excessive amount of time on their smart phones or tablets and find it difficult to imagine what could possibly keep them occupied and entertained in their absence.

You can reduce your stress levels by going camping away from the pressures of work and modern urban life, with no necessity to be at a certain place by a certain time and nothing interrupting you or competing for your attention. The natural outcome of this type of setting is stress reduction and relaxation.

Breathing fresh air has numerous benefits too. Not only does it clean your lungs but also boosts your mood, lowers your heart rate, increases energy levels and even improves digestion.

Camping is also good for helping you build and strengthen relationships within your family or with friends, who join you or who you meet during your camping expedition. You are able to talk with one another without distraction, even late into the night.

Time spent camping is physical time. You set up a tent, gather firewood, go for a hike. At home, we often lead sedentary lives that do not promote physical fitness. When you are camping, you cannot help but engage in physical activity.

Camping also enables you to have a good quality of sleep. With no need for an alarm clock to wake you up, you can enjoy waking up with nature at the coming of daylight and the chirping of birds.

You can also develop new skills while camping. Everyone on the trip can contribute to setting up camp and preparing the food. It is a great chance to learn new things. You may learn how to set up tents, tie knots, light a fire and cook a meal over a fire.

These are skills that many people do not have the chance to develop when they are housebound or office-bound within an urban setting..

Time spent camping is time spent learning, especially for children. This is one of the reasons scouting programmes are so valuable. They facilitate camping experiences that are built around children learning new things, including fishing, cooking, hiking, tying knots, fire-lighting, safety and first aid.

It is important for children to gradually become independent and confident of their own capabilities. One of the benefits of camping for youth is that it allows them to learn independence in a safe and controlled environment. Children tend to increase in self-confidence as they learn new things and have new experiences.

Camping is also beneficial for families because it can help strengthen bonds between family members. You are likely to return home feeling stronger as a group.

Safety precautions

However, while camping can provide many positive opportunities, such as enjoying nature, connecting with loved ones and exercising your body, there may also be dangers if you are not adequately prepared.

Following camping health and safety tips is essential to keep you, your loved ones, other people at the campsite and the environment safe.

Because you may be spending  a lot of time in the sun, you should apply sunscreen to parts of the body exposed to the sun for protection from ultraviolet rays, particularly if you are light-skinned and prone to sunburn.

You should apply a generous amount of sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outside so it has time to soak into your skin. You should reapply it every two hours or after swimming or sweating.

Make sure you drink plenty of water, since spending time outdoors in warm weather can increase your risk of dehydration. Be careful when consuming alcohol and caffeine, since these can increase your urine output, which can also contribute to dehydration.

If you plan on using water from freshwater sources for drinking while camping, make sure you treat the water to remove bacteria, viruses and parasites. Bringing water to a full rolling boil for at least one minute is the best way to kill any dangerous organisms.

Other alternatives include the use of water filters and purifiers, chemical disinfectants, and a UV light. However, these methods are less effective than simply boiling the water before drinking it.

Store food properly to prevent foodborne illnesses that can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, nausea, fever and other gastrointestinal issues. Precautions you can take include keeping food in an airtight and waterproof container. Perishable foods should be kept on ice or in a cooler bag.

Protect yourself against insect bites such as those from mosquitoes and ticks, which may carry diseases. Use insect repellent and wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers, particularly at night.  If you are using sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first before applying insect repellent.

Practise fire safety. Check the campground rules and local fire restrictions to see if fires are allowed at your campsite. Ensure there is no flammable debris nearby such as overhanging tree branches and unused firewood.

Ensure your fire is at least five metres away from your tent. Never leave the campfire unattended. Put out your fire completely with water or sand and dirt before going to bed or leaving your campsite.

Protect yourself against carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is an odourless, tasteless, and invisible gas that can be life threatening.

Fuel-burning equipment produces carbon monoxide which can become trapped at a dangerous level when using items such as gas stoves, heaters and lanterns inside a tent, camper or other enclosed shelter.

Make sure you always have an emergency kit with you, because no matter how prepared you are accidents can happen. Pack a First Aid kit that includes items such as gauze, bandages, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic wipes and pain-relief medication.

 Emergency supplies may include extra non-perishable food, a flashlight, batteries and a rescue whistle.

  • The information in this article is provided as a public service by the Cimas iGo Wellness programme, which is designed to promote good health. It is provided for general information only and should not be construed as medical advice. Readers should consult their doctor or clinic on any matter related to their health or the treatment of any health problem. — igo@cimas.co.zw or WhatsApp 0772 161 829 or phone 024-2773 0663

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