Hiking: Good for the Mind, Good for the Body

It’s 2 AM, the lights are off, and your corner of the seeable world is dimly lit by the unwavering computer screen four inches from your half-shut eyes. There’s a discarded six-pack of Yuengling Lager’s to your left, and an hours old pizza box nearby, with nothing left to it except for some congealing cheese clinging to the cardboard. As you delve deeper into the rabbit hole of your most oft-visited sites of Reddit, Facebook, and any other inhibitor of what could be considered a social life, you decide to call it a night.

After a sleep fueled by caffeine-induced nightmares, you wake to a beautiful, sunny morning; and schlep back to your world of computer games and webpage monotony. Meanwhile, buried deep inside your mind, there’s a voice that faintly calls for you to partake in activities of the great outdoors, although you’re not sure why. You’ve never been a runner, a gym rat, a beach bum, or a hiker. Yet, they sound so appealing; why?

That’s because man is meant to be outside, in nature, surrounded by beautiful sights, like where the greenery of trees meets the calmness of our bright blue sky. The music that comes from singing birds and buzzing insects alike has a calming influence on the part of the brain that –in today’s society– is constantly engaged in mobile devices, social media, and gaming consoles. The safety net of computers and Xbox’s that you’ve fooled yourself into thinking is a hobby, is the very thing limiting your happiness, adventures, and new experiences.

The good news is that this trend of monotonous droning is reversible; and it’s as simple as lacing up your go-fasters, sticking a Poland Springs and some snacks in your backpack, and setting out on a relaxing, self-paced hike. Destination? Nowhere, anytime soon.

Before long-distance hiking became a routine for myself, I was first subjected to the torturous forms of Marine Corps humps (a not-so-useful moniker for “hiking”). At 3 am we’d rise from our racks, by 4 am would be fully geared up and checking weapons out of the armory to simulate a full combat load, and would stand in formation until first light, usually falling around 5 am. The pace was always just rapid enough to ensure we wouldn’t enjoy ourselves, and the constant barking of orders to tighten up and shut up was there to add to the calamity. By the end of the 12, 15 or 20-mile lope, your weapon was haphazardly banging against your knee, all water sources were emptied from being either drank or dumped to reduce weight, and you couldn’t believe it was only 8 in the morning, with a full day of work ahead.

But it was moments like that which made me appreciate the sheer enjoyment of a hike as a civilian, where I’m accompanied by just a single bag, a faithful pup companion, and the freeness of my mind. It doesn’t matter if the sun is rising or setting, or the sky is clouded or clear; nor does it make a difference if you’re ankle deep in snow in the northern section of the Appalachian Trail, or sweating through your shirt in the Joshua Tree National Park of the Mojave Desert. The fact is, the benefits of putting one foot in front of the other at a level you deem comfortable is basic, true, healthy, and a heck of a lot more enjoyable than refreshing Buzzfeed for the eleventh time in the unfriendly confines of the Internet prison.

The bottom line when it comes to either short or long distance hiking is this: rather than sitting around and letting your body go to mush; the simplistic pastime gives you plenty of fresh air, strengthens your core, as well as the equally important glute, quad, and hamstring muscles. And for those of us who aren’t in our invincible ages of 13-29 anymore, your heart and cardiovascular system will thank you. Break the monotony; get outside!

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Gerard Lombardo

Gerard served as a United States Marine from 2009-2013 with two overseas deployments, the first being to Afghanistan's Helmand Province in 2011. After an honorable discharge, he began his pursuit of a bachelor's degree in journalism and is currently working his way up the ranks as a Red Sox writer while administrating and moderating multiple sports writing platforms. His passion for writing is only outdone by the love he has for his pit bull, and his life goal is to eliminate suicidal and mental health issues amongst the veterans of our country.

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