This 20-Minute Low-Impact Rucking Workout Will Torch Calories and Promote Longevity

For higher calorie burn and increased fitness, considering adding weight to your walks.
Image Credit: Dougal Waters/DigitalVision/GettyImages

Walking does wonders for your long-term health: From better sleep to a lower risk of stroke, a simple stroll has boundless benefits for healthy aging. But to unlock even more perks, consider leveling up your walking workouts by adding a little weight.

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Weighted walking — also known as rucking — involves wearing a weighted backpack or vest. It's still a low-impact activity (read: gentler on your joints), but it burns more calories than traditional walking thanks to the increased muscular demands, says Jereme Schumacher, PT, DPT, founding physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in San Diego.

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"Walking at a brisk pace while carrying an increased load will [also] challenge your aerobic capacity," Schumacher says. This can lead to better overall cardiovascular health.

And that's not all: Rucking can also increase your strength, enhance muscle endurance and improve your posture, he adds.

In fact, a small January 2019 study in the Journal of Clinical Medicine found that weighted step training can help preserve independence and prevent medical problems such as sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss) in older people.

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How to Get Started Rucking

"Although rucking is as simple as adding weight to a backpack and walking, there are definitely a few things to consider when first getting started," Schumacher says. Here are his tips to help you build a rucking routine safely:

1. Get a Backpack

Carrying weight is the main difference between walking workout and a rucking workout, and one of the best ways to add weight is with a pack.

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Make sure you have a rucksack (backpack) that fits comfortably on your body. "A poorly fit rucksack can lead to uneven weight distribution or skin irritation," Schumacher says. (Find our expert recommendations for packs here.)

2. Start Light

Ten pounds might not sound like a lot, but you'll notice even a little bit of extra weight, so start with a lighter load. "Everyone is different, but generally 10 to 25 pounds is a safe starting point for rucking," Schumacher says.

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Tip

How can you tell if you’re wearing the right amount of weight? When starting out, you want the walk to feel challenging but not strenuous. As a general rule, “if you are not able to maintain a pace faster than 20 minutes per mile, it may be too heavy,” Schumacher says.

3. Start Slow

It can be tempting to start hiking hills and push the pace, but you don't want to overexert yourself. "The goal is to start slow and light and progress your way up," Schumacher says.

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Take it easy for the first couple of rucking workouts to get your baseline, and then consider increasing the difficulty.

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Who Should Not Try Rucking

"Even though rucking is a very versatile activity that many people can do, you still want to consult with a healthcare professional beforehand," Schumacher says.

This is especially important if you have a history of pain or problems in your low back or lower body. "Because rucking can add increased pressure to your body, individuals with low back or lower body injuries may want to be careful when starting out," he says.

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To avoid further exacerbating your injury, take it slowly. Gradually increase the weight and distance "to allow your body to adapt to the load," Schumacher says.

And always heed your body: If rucking hurts, stop doing it.

20-Minute Rucking Workout

Designed by Schumacher, this 20-minute, low-impact rucking routine will ramp up your calorie burn while boosting your fitness. Here's how to get started:

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  • Minutes 0 to 2:‌ Walk at the slower range of your pace (~20 minute per mile pace) in order to ensure your body is properly warmed up.
  • Minutes 2 to 5:‌ Steadily increase your pace (~15 to 20 minute per mile pace). This will help determine what pace you will be able to sustain for the bulk of the workout.
  • Minutes 5 to 15:‌ Settle into a comfortable pace that's challenging but sustainable (~15-16 minute per mile pace).
  • Minutes 15 to 20:‌ For the last five minutes, push the pace for the highest calorie burn. If you're able to push to a 12-minute mile pace or less with ease, then you should probably increase the weight on your next workout.

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20-Minute Rucking Workout

Minutes

Pace

0 to 2

~20 min./mile

2 to 5

~15 min./mile

5 to 15

~15 to 16 min./mile

15 to 20

~12 min./mile

Source(s): Jereme Schumacher, DPT

How to Progress Your Rucking Routine

"When developing a rucking routine, the frequency, pace and duration are the most important factors," Schumacher says. Overall, the main goal is to get comfortable with the increased weight.

Here's a 4-week plan to kick-start your weighted walking workouts.

  • Week 1:‌ two rucks for max distance in 20 minutes (goal: 15 to 20 minute per mile pace)
  • Week 2:‌ two rucks for max distance in 20 minutes (goal: 15 to 20 minute per mile pace)
    • Add 5 to 10 pounds and aim for the same distance as week 1
  • Week 3:‌ three rucks for max distance in 20 minutes (goal: 15 to 20 minute per mile pace)
    • Add 5 to 10 pounds and aim for the same distance as week 2
  • Week 4:‌ three rucks for max distance in 20 minutes (goal: 15 to 20 minute per mile pace)
    • Add 5 to 10 pounds and aim for the same distance as week 3

Over time, as your body begins to accommodate the weight and your fitness improves, you can increase the intensity of your rucks.

"Start adding in hills or a variety of other movements to challenge yourself and burn even more calories," Schumacher says. For example, incorporating low-impact resistance exercises like lunges, planks and push-ups will really rev up the calorie burn and help you build strength.

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