by Angie Davis, The Strategic Wordsmith.
Rucking. The cardio workout that is so simple it’s stupid. Grab a ruck (the Rucker is a good choice), put weight in it, put it on your back, and walk out the door. That’s it. For those of us with an intense dislike for running, this is the perfect opportunity to get in some much-needed cardio.
Rucking is something everyone can do. For those just starting an exercise routine, put 10 lbs in a backpack and go for a quick walk. You will start to build up stamina and can increase your distance and weight over time.
Been exercising a while but looking for something new? Start with 20 lbs in your ruck (ruck plates help with that) and get moving. GORUCK participants – add more weight, and more miles because, well, you can never get enough miles.
We all have our own reasons for looking at a new exercise. Some people are tired of walking and want to try something more challenging, with a bit more cardio involved, but jogging is not going to happen.
But, does rucking kick it up a notch? Does rucking burn more calories than walking alone? I’ve heard that rucking can burn two to three times more calories as walking alone – but is this real?
I like the cold, hard facts. My mind doesn’t work with “the studies said”, so, I did the math. I love to ruck, but I needed to see that it actually does burn that many more calories.
Calculating Calorie Burn
Here’s the math:
We need to start with how we burn calories. Calories Burned = BMR X METs / 24 X hour(s) exercising. This formula gives you the amount of calories you burn while doing any exercise. You just need to find the right numbers to plug in. Let’s do that.
The first thing you need to understand is your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), also known as your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). This is the amount of calories your body burns while at rest, as in, sitting on the couch staring at your smartphone in a daze. You figure this out using the formula below. I used the Harris-Bennedict formula because it’s the most commonly known formula, and it’s in pounds.
BMR = 66 + (6.2 × weight in pounds) + (12.7 × height in inches) – (6.76 × age in years)
BMR = 655.1 + (4.35 × weight in pounds) + (4.7 × height in inches) – (4.7 × age in years)
Rucking’s Impact on Calorie Burn
The next part of the equation is the METs (Metabolic Equivalent of a Task). This is the measure of exercise intensity based on oxygen intensity (the amount of oxygen breathed in while exercising.) The MET for walking is between 3-5, depending on how intensely you are walking, and the hilliness of the landscape. The MET for rucking is between 8-10, again, depending on how much weight is in your ruck, your walking speed, and the hills in your terrain. Because the METs change based on the exercise you are doing, you do not need to change your body weight (don’t add the weight of your pack) for this equation.
And the hours exercising is the number of hours you exercised (1 hr, 1.5 hr, 14 hrs if you were at the Mog Mile with Cadre DS).
Let’s put it all together, with a 35-year-old man weighing 190 pounds and is 6 feet tall who walked/rucked for 2 hours. Using the Harris-Benedict formula, his BMR would be 1921.8 calories burned.
Plugging the BMR and other values into the calories burned formula for walking gives you this: (1921.8 X 3.5) / 24 X 2 = 560.53
and for rucking (1921.8 X 8.5) / 24 X 2 = 1361.28.
Does Rucking Burn More Calories?
Doing the math shows us that rucking burns just under 2.5 times more calories than walking. And that is a good reason to throw on a ruck when you go for a walk. Grab a ruck, grab a friend, or 10, and get outside. When you finish, grab a pizza and a beer, because, well, you certainly earned it!
Disclaimer: For this article, I assumed walking at a 4 mph pace. And I looked at rucking at the same pace with a 20-40 lb pack. As with any exercise, if you increase your pace your METs will increase, for both activities. For rucking, if you increase your load, your METs will also increase.
Want to start burning more calories with other cool people, find a Ruck Club in your area.
Ryan Burns is the founder of The Rucking Collective, LLC, which runs a number of ruck-related websites, including Rucking.com. Ryan discovered Rucking through GORUCK and has completed numerous GORUCK events, including their 50-mile Star Course. When not rucking, Ryan enjoys time with his family and helping others on their fitness journey as a Level 1 CrossFit trainer. You can reach him at email@example.com