Humans have been walking with weight forever. Rucking taps into that timeless, full-body workout so you can torch calories, improve your body’s aerobic capacity, and get stronger.
More and more people are picking up rucksacks and enjoying the benefits. Let’s look at the top 19 benefits you can gain by trucking.
What is Rucking?
Rucking is a form of exercise that involves carrying a backpack or rucksack (usually filled with weighted items) as you walk, jog, or even run. It’s a low-impact form of aerobic exercise that can be done at any pace with a wide range of weight.
Rucking is easily accessible for beginners, but can be made more challenging for those wanting to improve their strength, endurance, and heart health. And the best part? You can do it anywhere, so you never have to miss a workout.
Everyone can benefit from rucking, and it doesn’t take long to see and feel the results.
Our Special Forces roots taught us that rucking is the ultimate exercise. It’s used by the most elite military units to build endurance and strength, and we think it’s time everyone else gets on board.
12 Physical Benefits of Rucking
As you begin rucking, you’ll see physical benefits that are unique to you, but everyone can get excited about these perks.
1. Burn 3x More Calories Than Walking
Our Rucking Calorie Calculator can give you an estimate of how many calories you burn while rucking, but you can generally expect to burn 3x more calories than walking. Rucking is a great way to maximize your time because adding a rucksack to your walk makes a huge calorie difference.
Rucking also burns nearly as many calories as running. When considering the injury rates of rucking vs. running, the choice might be obvious.
2. Improve Posture and Strengthen Your Back and Shoulders
Rucking is great for engaging your back and shoulder muscles. Strong shoulders and a strong back keep these areas (so often injured as we get older) healthy.
Along with a strong back and durable shoulders, rucking improves posture by pulling your shoulders back as you walk. Your shoulders, back, and neck will be glad you started rucking.
These visible, tangible benefits make everyday life much less stressful: carrying groceries, mowing the lawn, and moving furniture all depend on healthy, strong shoulder and back muscles. Want functional, daily strength? Pick up a rucksack.
3. Strengthen Your Bones
As we age, our bones lose strength and density. Rucking is low impact strength training, so you get the benefits of weight training (strong and dense bones) without the dumbbells and personal trainers. Best of all, you don’t have to ruck every day to improve bone health.
4. Less Impact Than Running
Our Rucking vs. Running article dives deep into the pros and cons of each exercise, but it’s easy to say rucking is safe and effective for cardiovascular health.
While running is often cited as the best cardio exercise, it’s much harder on your feet, knees, and hips. It’s a high-impact exercise that often sidelines even the most careful runners.
Since rucking is easier on joints, you won’t need weeks or months off for injuries.
Stay healthy, keep rucking.
5. Train For Anything
One benefit of rucking is its application to other forms of exercise. We call that training for anything.
Rucking is Active Resistance Training™, meaning it’s strength training and cardio at the same time. It makes you a stronger hiker, runner, paddleboarder, weightlifter, or martial arts student.
Anyone who rucks can help friends move furniture without groaning, easily haul luggage through an airport, and spend days exploring new places on foot. There’s a reason rucking is the preferred training of Army Special Forces.
So if you hate running or working out at a gym (but want the benefits of both), rucking makes your fitness and health goals attainable.
6. Build Badass Workouts
While just walking with weight can build strong muscles and improve cardio, the fitness benefits of rucking don’t stop there. While rucking, you can include lunges and squats, pushups and planks, and even pullups and dead hangs. Mixing these simple exercises into your ruck sessions create more intense, sweat-pouring and heart-pounding workouts.
The benefits of rucking alone are numerous, but don’t be afraid to turn it up here and there. It’s good to be strong, and rucking gives us every opportunity.
7. Balance Body Composition
As Michael Easter says in his deep dive on rucking calorie burn, rucking can turn you into “a human weapon,” a machine. It combines endurance and strength to balance body composition.
Rucking turns us into strength and endurance machines, no matter our age or fitness level. When this happens, we can go anywhere and do anything.
8. Train Your Upper Body and Legs at the Same Time
Weight training has a knack for getting complicated, but rucking is simple. It effectively trains your upper body, core, and legs, all at the same time. Sound too good to be true? Rucking is the foundation for Army Special Forces training, and is used across the military to build strong, durable men and women.
If our most elite servicemembers hold the benefits of rucking in such high regard, you will too. Just check out some rucking testimonials.
9. Completely Functional Fitness
Long before there were ellipticals, fancy running shoes, and big box gyms, there were people carrying things. Meat from a hunt, water from a well, and supplies for days of survival and exploration.
Humans have always carried things, and carrying things is powerful. Just ask Michael Easter, whose month-long caribou hunt convinced him that humans are born to carry weight over distance—not run.
Rucking is efficient and useful. It gives us strength, endurance, and character. It physically, mentally, and socially opens the door to feeling human in a digital, modern world.
In short, rucking stands apart from other workouts. History and arctic caribou hunts agree.
If you’re ready to test your strength and endurance, start with The GORUCK Challenge.
10. Regulate Your Blood Sugar
Dr. Mike Roussell wrote an article about the benefits of rucking after we eat. Our biological systems that manage blood sugar start working after a meal.
Sitting around, lying down, and relaxing all sound great afterward, but our bodies can use our help. Even a light ruck after eating primes muscles to pull sugar out of the bloodstream and negates the effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
11. Improve Your Capability
Being capable is all about confidence, dependability, and experience. Rucking makes us stronger humans, and that strength makes us capable – capable of long walks when your car breaks down, capable of carrying the extra snacks on your family hike, capable of setting an example of health & wellness…
The list goes on.
The confidence, dependability, and experience you reap by rucking will make you a stronger, more capable human.
12. Prepare For Emergencies
The worst emergency is one that requires you to trek dozens (or hundreds) of miles to survive or save a life. Rucking prepares you for that.
You’ll be better equipped to handle smaller emergencies—more common nowadays—too. Is your car stuck in the snow? Load your belongings onto your back and hike it out. Did your dog hurt his paw? Carry him home.
7 More Benefits of Rucking
When our bodies change for the better, our minds do too. Rucking benefits our emotions, our positivity and outlook, and our social lives.
1. Improve Your Mood and Sleep Quality
Sweat, sunshine, and community. Enough said.
Rucking is mostly done outdoors, and we’re usually a little sweaty when we finish. Sure, you can take your rucksack to the gym and get a great workout, but being outside is a pillar of rucking culture.
Sweat, sunshine, and community flood our brains with positivity chemicals, and the effects are obvious. Improved mood, better sleep, and rejuvenation for work and family time.
2. Connect With Your Community
At GORUCK, community is everything. That’s why we have GORUCK Clubs and Tribe ‘n Training. It’s why, every single day—morning or night, rain or sunshine—so many people pick up their rucksacks and meet for a workout.
Rucking with friends helps you stay accountable to your fitness goals, builds important social connections, and floods your brain with positive emotion.
You are who you spend the most time with, so spend it with badass people who appreciate the finer things in life: the outdoors, fitness and health, community, and maybe a well-earned beer.
3. Adapt to Your Fitness Level
GORUCK Clubs are accessible to everyone, even new ruckers, because rucking is completely scalable. The weight carried can be adjusted to fit your current fitness level, and you’ll always find someone moving at your pace.
Rucking is the workout for everyone because it’s adjustable to anyone’s fitness level and experience.
Toss some weight in a pack and show up.
You’ll be glad you did.
4. Discover New Experiences
People are awesome. They’re complex. Everyone has a unique story, career, or plan. You know what makes people more awesome, complex, and interesting? New experiences.
No matter how many places you go, how heavy your rucksack is, how many parks and trails and cities you explore, your brain is always becoming more complex. New neurological connections are built with every new experience, and rucking gives you an endless supply of those.
A person’s level of awesomeness only increases as they get more interesting.
So get out there. Go new places. Do hard things with cool people. Get more interesting.
5. Get Your Steps In
10,000 steps per day. It’s the battle cry of every health coach and fitness influencer, and rightfully so.
10,000 steps per day is all about building solid, anti-lazy habits. We’re on board with that. Rucking takes this 10,000 steps per day recommendation and amplifies the results, while making the process more fulfilling. It burns 3x more calories than walking, gets you outdoors, and connects you to other people.
Rucking is best in the morning, after lunch and dinner, and in the evening with friends. It can be a tool to hit your step goals or a workout that gets your heart rate up.
However you enjoy it, enjoy it often. Make functional fitness a habit.
6. Add Adventure to Your Life
Rucking is a bright spot in a sometimes dull, digital world. It takes you outside, opens you up to new challenges and workouts, and introduces you to badass people who often become friends. It’s not always about burning calories, but you’ll do plenty of that, too.
So wake up with a smile on your face. Where will you ruck today? Who’s coming with you? Will you load your rucksack heavy, or take it lighter?
The world is full of adventure. Rucking opens it up.
7. See New Sights
Sometimes that adventure is right in your backyard. Rucking is a great way to explore your community on foot. You’ll find new favorite places to eat or grab a smoothie, and new parks and trails to wander.
Getting in touch with your neighborhood, community, or city is important. You live there, after all. Why not explore it?
How to Start Rucking
Rucking is simple, which means it’s easy to start and turn into a habit.
While we’ve got loads of awesome rucking gear to make every workout great, all you need to start is a rucksack and some weight. Seriously. Grab a pack, wrap a dumbbell in a towel, and head out the door.
Rucking is simply walking with weight on your back. Don’t think too hard about it, just get started.
And when you’re ready to upgrade your gear, check out the best rucksacks on the planet.
Rucking is Free
Once you’ve figured out your pack (whether it’s our go-to Rucker® or your own bag and weight), there are no membership fees. Many gyms charge sign-up fees in addition to their monthly membership cost, but why pay when you can get a full body workout and torch calories for free?
Rucking Can Be Done Anywhere With Anyone
Rucking is walking with weight on your back, and you can do that anywhere. Urban streets, suburban neighborhoods, trails and parks, abroad or at home, no matter the season or how many people are crowding the sidewalks. There is no exercise more versatile than rucking.
Dogs Love Rucking
Perhaps most important on this list: dogs love rucking. Dogs love the outdoors, exercise, and their favorite humans. Your pup will be glad to join every workout.
The benefits of rucking are numerous, but you can’t enjoy them until you’re wearing a rucksack.
If you’re new to rucking, check out our beginner’s guide. Remember, it’s easy and free to get started, and you can start wherever you are.
By Jason McCarthy, GORUCK Founder and CEO