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Ruck Your Way To Better Health

Apr/14/2024 / by Brian Sodoma

This weight-based practice has a host of fitness benefits

Studio photo of a ruck sack
Photo via Shutterstock

Rucking has been a part of Daniella Dayoub Forrest’s life for the past 20 years. The California-based health coach and author of “Own Your Wellness: Giving You the Tools to Break Through Your Health Plateaus” turned to the practice after a fracture from an accident in her 20s accelerated the loss of bone mass in later years. She’s now 47.

Doing lots of cardio didn’t help. In fact, she found that activities like biking didn’t provide resistance for the upper body, which contributed to poor bone density test results. So, Dayoub Forrest now wears a 20-pound weighted vest from Prodigen when she is working at her standing desk and a 6-pound Aduro weighted vest when she’s on her Peloton bike.

“I’ve been using a weighted vest off and on for a couple decades, about three or four days a week. The technology has come a long way from when I first started wearing them,” the fitness expert said. For women, she recommends a vest that has a padded x-shape across the back for extra support.

Here’s a closer look at the benefits of rucking and how you can do it safely.

What is Rucking?

Simply defined, rucking is a practice where you add weight to your upper body while exercising, walking, or performing everyday tasks. The weight can be packed in a backpack or rucksack, or a weighted vest, as Dayoub Forrest does.

Rucking’s origins can be traced back to military boot camp training to prepare soldiers for the rigors of carrying extra weight out in the field, but the practice has been in the mainstream for quite some time.

If you’re into the more traditional approach of putting weight into a backpack or rucksack, GORUCK is a popular brand that sells these items along with rucking apparel. Added shoulder padding and durability is what separates a backpack or rucksack designed specifically for rucking from an everyday pack.

Benefits of Rucking

Rucking can improve strength, endurance, balance, and overall fitness levels for any age group. It’s also a great way to burn extra calories and fight sarcopenia, or muscle wasting that comes with age.

“Carrying heavy things is a fundamental movement pattern that is especially important for women over 40,” Steph Gaudreau, a fitness trainer who specializes in working with women, told her audience in one of her podcasts. “The benefits to your bones, blood sugar, insulin sensitivity, stress, and more are some reasons why I love rucking.”

Dayoub Forrest says improved core strength may be one of the greatest rucking benefits. “The core is not just about great abs. It’s everything in the trunk, all the muscles that support the rib cage and the lower back,” she explained. “You don’t need it to look good, but you need it for endurance, and the limbs don’t move well if they don’t have that support. Rucking is a great way to have the core engaged without having to go out of your way to do core exercises.”

Start Slow

If you’re interested in trying rucking, Dayoub Forrest cautioned going low and slow as far as increasing resistance. You can start by simply carrying a few pounds in a backpack on a walk. Over time, you can increase to roughly 5% of your body weight and beyond.

“I would say people need to work up to that, especially if they are already osteoporotic or if they’ve had a vertebral fracture,” she added.

Avoid implementing rucking into workouts when you start, the author also suggested. Rucking can be very beneficial for balance exercises, for example, ones where you are standing on one leg. However, until you get used to the added weight the exercises could be a hazard because extra weight up top can throw off a person’s center of balance.

“When you’re starting, you also want to be careful when you’re bending over and moving side to side,” she noted. “Until you’re used to the added weight it can put a strain on the spine and hips.”

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