Elevate Your Walk: 7 Surprising Benefits of Rucking

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Transform a simple walk into a powerful full-body workout with rucking.

Step into your local gym, and you might notice something unusual—among the regulars on treadmills and using weight machines, there’s someone briskly walking with a heavily loaded backpack. This isn’t just an eccentric gym member—it’s a practitioner of rucking, a fitness trend gaining momentum.

Rucking, a straightforward exercise that combines walking with the added resistance of carrying weight, has evolved from its military roots and is attracting many enthusiasts. From dedicated gym-goers to occasional walkers, many are discovering rucking as a versatile way to improve fitness. It offers physical and mental health benefits, making each step count for more than simple exercise.

What Is Rucking?

Rucking, a concept originating from military training, involves walking while carrying a weighted backpack. This exercise, rooted in the training regimens of soldiers, has expanded its reach, becoming a popular and accessible form of fitness for a broad audience.

Tom Holland, exercise physiologist, elite endurance athlete, and author, told The Epoch Times, “Rucking is akin to walking with the added element of resistance. Using a weighted backpack activates additional muscle groups, especially in the core and lower body, and intensifies the cardiovascular aspect of the workout.”

Rucking’s appeal stems from its simplicity and adaptability. It requires minimal equipment—just a backpack and some weight—and can be done anywhere. This accessibility has played a significant role in its rising popularity.

Hadi Ktiri, a luxury hotel manager, found his ideal workout in long-distance rucking. Mr. Ktiri explains to The Epoch Times, “I’ve never really liked running and was worried that the impact would do more harm than good. Rucking allows me to create a very strong foundation, burn similar calories, and is much easier to do.” This shift to rucking has significantly enhanced his fitness, sleep, and stamina at work.

Rucking Through the Ages

A staple in contemporary fitness routines, rucking has historical and evolutionary origins. Far preceding its recognition as an organized exercise, rucking played a crucial role in human survival and societal advancement.

Evolutionary biologists assert that carrying loads, whether resources, tools, or children, has been a constant throughout history. Daniel Lieberman, PhD, a professor in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, told The Epoch Times about this phenomenon. “Until recently, everyone carried things often. Not carrying stuff is weird,” Mr. Lieberman stated.

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This sentiment is echoed in his book “Exercised,” where he writes about the historical necessity of physical activity: “For generation after generation, our ancestors young and old woke up each morning thankful to be alive and with no choice but to spend several hours walking, digging, and doing other physical activities to survive to the next day.”
Building on this perspective, Michael Easter, an author and professor of journalism, highlights a specific aspect of this historical activity in a blog post. He notes, “Carrying children is one of the original forms of rucking. It changed our species and still benefits us and kids today.”

This practice of carrying is culturally pervasive. In numerous traditional societies, the daily routine often involved, and sometimes still involves, carrying goods and children over extended distances. Such weight-bearing activities have been crucial in developing physical strength and resilience.

In a more recent historical context, the military adoption of rucking, often termed “forced marches” with heavy gear, has been integral to soldier training for generations. The practice encompasses physical conditioning and the cultivation of mental fortitude and endurance.

Steve Smith, a tactical fitness trainer, and ex-Navy Seal told The Epoch Times, “Rucking in the military was never just about physical training. It was about preparing soldiers for the realities of the field—carrying equipment, supplies, and sometimes comrades, across challenging terrains under stressful conditions.” He emphasizes a gradual approach to rucking, warning against the risks of jumping straight into lengthy treks with heavy loads.

Today, rucking has evolved from its historical and evolutionary roots into a popular fitness activity. Combining walking with added weight revives primal practices, offering a natural and functional form of exercise that aligns with our basic physical instincts. Understanding its origins enhances our appreciation for rucking, recognizing it as more than just a modern fitness trend but a continuation of a fundamental human practice.

7 Benefits of Rucking

1. Burn Calories and Shed Pounds

Rucking elevates a regular walk into an effective workout for burning calories. Scientific studies support this enhanced weight loss benefit. Research in Military Medicine reveals that the energy expended in carrying loads, especially over difficult terrain, is typically underestimated. Consequently, weight-bearing activities like rucking are more calorie-intensive than once assumed.

“Rucking is a great option for those looking to lose weight, as it takes the most popular form of exercise, walking, and significantly increases the caloric expenditure,” shares Mr. Holland.

GoRuck, a leading name in rucking gear, emphasizes rucking’s notable calorie-burning capability, suggesting it can burn up to two or three times more calories than a standard walk. Their website offers a customized rucking calorie calculator, considering body weight, load, and pace. For example, a person weighing 175 pounds, carrying 20 pounds, and walking at a 15-minute mile pace, might burn approximately 557 calories in an hour.

2. Age Gracefully and Keep Bones Strong

Rucking is gaining recognition as a vital practice for healthy aging and sustaining strong bone health. “Rucking stands out as a remarkably effective exercise for promoting longevity and bone health,” states Derek Papp, an orthopedic surgeon. “The weight-bearing aspect of rucking stimulates bone density, which is crucial for preventing osteoporosis and maintaining skeletal strength as we age.”

Research underscores the benefits of weight-bearing exercises like rucking in enhancing bone density, particularly among postmenopausal women. A small study revealed that older individuals who engaged in training with a weight vest maintained their bone density. In contrast, those who exercised without one experienced a decrease in bone density.

3. Improve Heart Health

Health experts are increasingly acknowledging rucking for its cardiovascular advantages. This exercise boosts heart health by enhancing heart rate and blood circulation without exerting excessive stress on the joints.

“Rucking is a great way to increase your heart health and function by making the simple act of walking more challenging,” states Mr. Holland.

4. Build Mental Resilience

In “The Comfort Crisis,“ Mr. Easter discusses the decline in physical challenges in modern life compared to our ancestors, leading to a more comfortable yet less active lifestyle. In an email to The Epoch Times, he remarked, ”You see the effects of this in the data. Roughly 40 percent of the population is obese. Lifespan has recently dropped year over year, which hasn’t happened since the early 1900s. Mental health issues have never been higher. We’re less happy now than we were in the 1970s, despite being 43 percent wealthier based on per capita GDP.”

Rucking, in this context, serves as an effective antidote. By incrementally adding weight to our walks, rucking nudges us gently out of our comfort zones. This practice isn’t just about physical endurance—it’s a testament to mental fortitude and grit. Carrying extra weight, step by step, mile by mile, is a metaphor for embracing life’s challenges, pushing us to test our limits and build resilience.

Participating in activities such as rucking, particularly in nature, dramatically benefits mental and emotional well-being. Research indicates that outdoor exercises effectively reduce stress and enhance mood and cognitive abilities.

5. Build Bonds and Social Connectivity

Rucking is quickly becoming a social phenomenon, enhancing community bonds. Mr. Holland notes, “Research has also shown the extremely positive benefits of our social connections, with a definitive correlation between the strength and number of these connections with longevity. Rucking is often done with others, which increases the health benefits, makes it more enjoyable, and increases the likelihood you will continue to do it.”

These groups attract a variety of individuals bonded by rucking. Members often discover a network of support and camaraderie. Moreover, rucking communities are flourishing on social media, in gyms, and in local communities, making it easier for enthusiasts to connect and engage.

“The social aspect of rucking is the secret sauce,” Mr. Easter told The Epoch Times.

6. Back to Basics

Our ancestors’ exercise was practical, involving carrying loads across distances and navigating diverse terrains. Rucking revives this approach, providing an uncomplicated yet thorough workout. It works various muscle groups, follows the body’s innate mechanics, and sidesteps the rigidness of contemporary exercise routines.

Rucking confronts contemporary fitness ideals by promoting versatility and adaptability, favoring intuitive, functional movement over strict adherence to rules. This “back to basics” approach reconnects us with a more organic way of living reminiscent of our ancestors’ lifestyle.

7. Rucking for Everybody

Rucking stands out as an inclusive fitness activity, suitable for all, regardless of their fitness levels. Its adaptability is key: participants of different strengths and endurance levels can engage in rucking together, each with weights adjusted to their ability.

“The weight is a great equalizer,” Mr. Easter shares in a blog. “Person A could use 20 pounds while Person B could use 35. But they’d be able to ruck at the same pace and get in the same workout, all while being able to hold a conversation throughout.”

Rucking’s versatility encompasses pace, distance, and terrain, aligning with various interests and objectives. From a relaxed stroll in an urban park to a vigorous hike on rugged trails, rucking suits a wide range of exercise enthusiasts.

“The best forms of exercise are simple yet effective, involve minimal equipment, that you can do anywhere at any time, and modify for all fitness levels. Rucking checks every one of these boxes, allowing you to do it when and where you want while adding weight and distance according to your current individual fitness level,” Mr. Holland concludes.

How to Get Started With Rucking

Embarking on your rucking journey is a highly personalized experience, and experts advise starting slow to avoid injury and burnout. Initially, you might even begin with just an empty backpack, gradually acclimating your body to the new activity.

Choose the Right Backpack: Select a comfortable, durable backpack that fits well. Ensure it has adjustable straps to secure the load close to your body. Several companies make backpacks specifically for rucking, although any pack that fits comfortably will work. Some people opt for a weighted vest.

Start With Light Weight: Begin with a manageable weight, often recommended as 10 percent of your body weight. Some people purchase ruck plates—others use hand weights—either is fine if there is an even weight distribution.

Gradually Increase Weight: As you get more comfortable, gradually add more weight. Mr. Easter recommends the heaviest weight you should regularly use is one-third of your body weight—unless you are overweight or obese, in which case you should carry less.

Focus on Posture: Keep your back straight and shoulders back to avoid strain. Good posture is crucial in rucking.

Select Appropriate Footwear: Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes suitable for walking or hiking over varied terrains.

Plan Your Route: Start with familiar, flat routes and gradually introduce varied terrains as you progress.

Set a Manageable Pace: Begin with a comfortable walking pace. There’s no need to rush—consistency is key.

Stay Hydrated and Nourished: Carry water and snacks, especially for longer rucks.

Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to how your body responds, and adjust your weight or distance accordingly.

Join a Rucking Group: For motivation and guidance, consider joining a local rucking group or online community.

Seek Medical Guidance: Seek the advice of a medical professional before embarking on any new fitness regimen.

Remember, the goal is to enjoy the process while building up your fitness. Rucking should be challenging but manageable, allowing you to progress at a pace that suits your individual fitness level and goals.

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