What the ruck is rucking? The hashtag #rucking has already gotten over 19.3 million views on TikTok. Many of the associated videos have been promoting rucking as a good way to get exercise. In this case, rucking means walking with some type of weight on your back. And the weight here is not an emotional one but rather an actual physical one such as a backpack filled with stuff.
The term rucking does come from a ruck—specifically, a ruck march. A ruck march is where you walk very briskly over rough terrain while wearing a rucksack, hence the word ruck. A rucksack is basically a backpack that is larger and has more compartments. Ruck marches have long been a military activity. For example, one requirement to earn an Expert Infantryman Badge from the U.S. Army is completing 12-mile ruck while carrying at least 35 pounds of gear. Other names for “ruck march” are “forced marches” or “humps,” although you may want to be very clear on what you mean when you ask someone to do the latter.
By now, you’ve probably figured out that walking in general is good for you. If the choice is between laying on the couch watching “Too Hot to Handle” on TV or walking, most doctors would recommend you do the latter to get more physical activity. Regularly going on walks has multiple potential health benefits. For one, walking burns calories, typically around 50 calories (which is basically one oat cake) per mile if you weigh 100 pounds, around 85 calories if you weight 160 pounds, and a little over 100 calories if you weight 200 pounds, which can help with body weight control. Walking can also improve your cardiovascular fitness. A study of older adults showed that increasing the number of steps taken each day by 500 correlated with 14% decrease in the risk of heart disease, stroke or heart failure. By using and applying pressure on your muscles and bones, walking can strengthen your musculoskeletal system as well, which over time can reduce your risk of problems in those areas. Plus, walking can bring a variety of potential mental and emotional health benefits too. You’ve probably heard of the saying, “Going on a walk to clear my head,” as opposed to “Jumping on social media to clear my head.”
Well, guess what carrying additional weight could do to all of these effects? It could, weight for it, weight for it, further enhance all of these benefits. Carrying additional weight can increase your exertion and the stress that you put on your muscles and bones.
Now, one thing to stress is that physical stress can be good or bad. When rucking, you’ve got to be careful about how much weight you carry and how it is distributed across your body. If you are carrying too much weight or if the weight is not properly balanced, it can cause too much stress to your spine, shoulders, feet, ankles, knees, joints, hips or other parts of your body. This can lead a variety of different injuries.
That’s why when you start rucking for the first time, don’t just try to squeeze several anvils into a Louis Vuitton Twist MM bag and then sling the bag’s strap on your shoulder. Instead, it’s better to start with an empty backpack that’s actually designed for hiking. It should have properly fitting and padded shoulder straps and perhaps even a waist strap to help ensure that the weight in the pack is more evenly distributed across your torso. It’s good to start on empty so that you can get used to the feel of the backpack. Only after you’ve gotten all the feels should you then try adding weight to the matter. You can gradually increase the amount of weight in the back pack with each subsequent ruck. Be conservative about the maximum amount of weight that you can carry. Your ability to carry weight can be very different at mile zero versus mile eight, for example. If you are carrying so much weight, that you can only crawl, you are carrying way too much weight.
Also, make sure that the weight inside the backpack is evenly distributed. It may be better to carry something like sand or flour that can spread out more evenly rather than something like a bunch of rotisserie chickens. A weighted vest can be a good alternative to a backpack too.
While rucking, wear comfortable and appropriate shoes and clothing. The words “killer heels” do not go well together with “rucking.” Neither do the words “wearing nothing but a Speedo.” You don’t want to risk injury to your lower extremities or have the backpack cause chafing of your skin.
Furthermore, be mindful of the terrain that you will be crossing. Don’t underestimate how much a backpack can make navigating terrain more difficult. Naturally, “running from wild animals” should not be part of your rucking.
As long as you take the aforementioned proper precautions, rucking could be a good addition to your physical fitness regimen. Of course, you should always consult your physician if possible before starting any new exercise regimen, especially if you have any underlying conditions. No exercise regimen is for everyone. But if rucking does match you and your circumstances, it could end up being a totally rucking way to get exercise.