Rucking can help you burn fat, build muscle, and stay strong as you age — and you don’t need a gym

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  • Rucking, or carrying a weight over distances, is a great exercise for fitness and longevity.

  • A fitness journalist says that carrying has been a key human behavior throughout history.

  • Try it to build muscle, burn fat, improve your heart health, and prevent injury.

One of the hottest trends in fitness doesn’t require a gym or any fancy equipment, and just about anyone can try it to get stronger and live longer, whether they’re a 70-year-old grandmother or a 21-year-old elite athlete.

Rucking, or carrying weight over distance, is an exercise human bodies were designed to do to help us survive, Michael Easter, a fitness journalist and the best-selling author of the recently released “Scarcity Brain,” said.

The practice can improve cardiovascular fitness, make our muscles and bones more durable, and build core and back strength to help us navigate daily tasks.

But these days, tools, technology, and our changing routines have made it so that most of us rarely need to carry things more than a few feet from our cars to our homes.

“We’ve sort of engineered carrying out of our daily lives,” Easter told Insider. “I think it’s very important for humans to do, and we’re doing less and less of it.”

He said that now, “rucking” refers to carrying weight for fitness, so it’s not quite the same as backpacking.

But you can adjust the weight you carry, how you carry it, your speed, and the distance you cover, which makes rucking an accessible exercise for almost anyone regardless of age or fitness level.

“If you can walk, you can ruck,” Easter said.

Rucking is great for longevity 

Easter said that from our earliest ancestors hauling game after hunting trips or gathering natural resources to entire populations traveling long distances with their families and belongings, carrying stuff — and sometimes heavy stuff — is unique to humans and a foundational behavior throughout history.

While we may not need to lug a bison home for dinner, there are still good reasons to make time for rucking since it taps into several types of exercises linked to longevity.

“It’s good for everything, in terms of aging,” Easter said.

First, rucking gets your heart pumping, and aerobic exercise is great for cardiovascular health, helping prevent heart disease — a major global cause of death.

At the same time, it provides resistance training along with cardio to help strengthen muscles and bones. Research has suggested that the combination is key to a longer, healthier life. Bone density is important as we age because research shows broken bones are a major health risk for older adults.

Even more important, research suggests rucking has a low risk of injury — even more so than common exercises such as running — which means it’s a good option for older or sedentary people who want to improve their fitness without getting hurt, Easter said.

The benefits of rucking include burning fat and building muscle and core strength 

Along with helping you live longer, rucking can keep you feeling and looking good.

Easter said it’s a great exercise for burning body fat — the added weight uses significantly more calories than walking or running without it.

Rucking also builds muscle, especially in your lower body — but it also taps into your shoulders, back, and core to support the added weight.

Easter said it may even help with issues such as back pain since the act of rucking creates a counterweight that helps balance out how you activate the back muscles. Rucking also helps strengthen the core, which is crucial to a healthy spine.

a man and a women wearing backpacks and walking on a gravel path through the woods

Rucking can be a great social exercise that’s easy to scale for different fitness levels because each person can choose a challenging weight. urbazon/Getty Images

It’s easy to add rucking to your daily routine

Rucking has long been a foundation of military fitness: Soldiers are often required to carry heavy gear over long distances, cultivating a love-hate relationship with the exercise among groups such as the Navy SEALs.

Since Easter’s book, “The Comfort Crisis,” explored the benefits and anthropological context of the exercise, rucking has experienced a renaissance among a broader audience.

“Before, it was just this thing that military dudes did and it seemed really hardcore and really intimidating,” he said.

You don’t need to be in the Army Special Forces or the CrossFit Games to try rucking. Easter said it’s simple to incorporate into activities you already do, such as walking the dog or getting your daily steps in.

“You can just add a weighted pack and all of a sudden, you’re getting more out of every step,” he said.

a man wearing a backpack and headphones walking through a busy city street.

Add rucking to your everyday walks by grabbing a backpack and any heavy household objects, from books to water bottles.Pedro Merino/Getty Images

How to start rucking 

Easter said the biggest mistake people make with rucking is overthinking it.

“People tend to get paralysis by analysis. Just throw some stuff in a backpack, go for a walk, and see how that feels,” he said.

You don’t need any special equipment since an ordinary backpack works well for rucking, and you can add weight with household objects, including books. Using sandbags or water bottles have an added bonus in that you can empty them — or drink the water — to make it easier as you go if needed, Jenn Drummond, a mountaineer, previously told Insider.

You can also use a weighted vest if you have one, or even carry a weight in front of you — such as bear-hugging a sandbag to your chest — but a backpack will likely be the most convenient option.

“It’s more important that you carry weight than how you carry weight,” Easter said. “I think that for most people, most of the time, rucking with a backpack is better.”

Easter said a good starting load is about 15 to 30 pounds for most people, but also said to use common sense when starting out.

“I tell people to ease into it. If you find the weight is too low, you can add from there,” he said.

Easter suggested trying to keep the weight close to your body so it isn’t sagging behind you and covering anything with hard edges in a blanket so your cargo doesn’t poke you in the back.

A common mistake is leaning too far forward to offset the weight, which you can avoid by keeping your hips underneath your torso, Michael O’Dowd, a former Navy SEAL, previously told Insider.

As for how long and how often you can ruck, it depends on your fitness level. If you’re relatively new to fitness, start with a short walk a few times a week. Even just 15 to 30 minutes is a good start. As you get more advanced, rucking has a low risk of injury even if you do it every day, but giving your body a chance to recover can be helpful, especially at first.

“Eventually you’ll get to a point where you can ruck every single day. If humans couldn’t carry stuff every day, we would have died off a long time ago,” Easter said.

Read the original article on Insider

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