Guest Column

Introduction to rucking

By Mike Tracy
Posted 12/2/22

The health benefits of regular exercise are well-documented. Exercise that increases heart rate is called “cardio,” which is short for cardiovascular exercise. A form of cardio that can …

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Guest Column

Introduction to rucking


The health benefits of regular exercise are well-documented. Exercise that increases heart rate is called “cardio,” which is short for cardiovascular exercise. A form of cardio that can be done almost anywhere is walking. Walking regularly may help with management of many health issues, including blood pressure, blood sugar, and mood. Resistance training involves isolating groups of muscles for exercise. Examples may include weightlifting, push-ups, and pull-ups. Resistance training may help to manage or prevent several conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and osteoporosis. A well-designed fitness program combines the benefits of cardio training and resistance training.

Enter rucking. For many years, the military has kept soldiers in shape by activities that include rucking. Rucking is an integral part of training in the U.S. Army. Soldiers know the term well and may view rucking as more of a forced march than part of a civilian fitness plan. Heavy packs, usually called rucksacks, are used to carry heavy weights over long distances. The Department of Defense has studied the health benefits of this activity. The health benefits of rucking offer a combination of cardio training and resistance training. Depending on the amount of weight carried, a brisk walk while rucking burns two to three times the number of calories of walking alone. For non-military purposes, the ideal pace is 3-4 miles/hour with no more than 50 pounds in your pack. Rucking in the military often involves jogging with much heavier loads.

It may seem odd to put weights in a backpack and then walk around with them if you are not being forced to do so. It may seem even weirder to see someone walking around town with a loaded backpack, knowing that they started at their house in town and will end at the same house in one to two hours. It’s one thing to carry a backpack with supplies into the wilderness, as the heaviness of the pack (usually) reflects items that will make the trip more enjoyable, including food, water, clothing, and shelter. However, the point of rucking is to carry weight that doesn’t have any usefulness other than exercise benefits. One of the benefits of doing this is that when one does decide to head for the hills with a backpack, the first day of the season feels enjoyable and familiar.


Here are a few specific benefits of rucking:

• It is a low impact exercise. The added weight needs to be balanced properly in a well-fitting backpack, but the mechanics of walking briskly with weights are generally less traumatic to the knees and other joints than activities such as running.

• In addition to cardio and leg-strengthening, rucking is helpful with posture and core-strengthening. The exercise keeps your shoulders back and works the abdominal and back muscles that support the spine.

• This activity can be done almost anywhere — urban or rural, domestic or international.

Rucking has become a bit of a club sport in larger cities. We also know that you can walk around the wilderness in Wyoming with a weighted pack in pursuit of great experiences and exercise. 

• Rucking can be done solo or in a group setting. I am not aware of any formal rucking “clubs” in the Big Horn Basin or Billings, but there are many group activities in urban areas. Check out for more information about rucking and groups.

In conclusion, rucking is an activity that can be good for both physical and mental health. Two final tenets of rucking include the following:

Outside is better than inside.

Together is better than alone.While both may be true, you can also get a decent workout rucking inside if you have a big enough space, and it is also an activity that you can do alone if that is your preference or if you cannot find a rucking mate. Rucking is relatively inexpensive and can be done anywhere and anytime.


(Dr. Mike Tracy is a cofounder of 307Health. He has practiced internal medicine and pediatrics in Powell since 2002.)