Rucking vs Running: Which Is Better for Your Health? 

 June 25, 2023

By  Keith Terrell

You’re a fitness enthusiast who wants to get in shape and become healthy, but there are so many ways you can do it! Should you go running or should you go rucking? We all know how good running can be for your physical health as it strengthens your cardiovascular system, boosts your stamina, and burns calories. But rucking has become very popular in recent years because it not only gets you fit but also builds strength and flexibility. So which is better for your health? 

Rucking is a form of physical exercise where you carry a weighted backpack or vest while walking, jogging, or running. Running is another form of physical exercise where you move your body at different speeds for fitness and/or competition purposes.

In this blog, we’ll look at the pros and cons of rucking and running, and how both options can help you achieve your health goals by improving your aerobic fitness, strengthening your muscles, developing good posture, improving your stability, and helping you build endurance. So read on to find out which is better for your health, rucking or running!

The Difference Between Rucking and Running

Rucking and running are two completely different activities, each with its own set of pros and cons. Rucking is a physical activity originating in military training where you wear a weighted backpack (ruck) and walk at a brisk pace for a set distance or time. Running involves a different force on the body than rucking. While running involves a linear movement, rucking is more of a step-like pattern that changes your center of gravity and uses a wider range of muscles in the body.

Proponents of running cite the aerobic benefits of increased heart rate, improved cardiovascular endurance, increased calorie burning, and better fat burning that come with running. Conversely, proponents of rucking point out that it can help prevent injuries due to the different posture of the body when carrying a load. This takes pressure off the joints and lower back, providing extra stability and core strength. Moreover, hardly any additional equipment is needed for rucking — just a good pair of shoes and a backpack.

Ultimately, both activities have something unique to offer in terms of health benefits. Things like preferred exercise routines, available equipment and desired results need to be considered. Regardless of which you choose, it is important to exercise regularly to maintain good physical health. With this in mind, the next section on the other benefits of rucking versus running can help you decide which exercise is best for you.

Advantages of Rucking Over Running

When discussing the benefits of rucking versus running, it is important to consider how both activities can positively and negatively affect an individual’s health. For starters, rucking requires wearing a weighted backpack whereas running does not. This presents an additional challenge to ruckers who have to tense and strengthen different muscle groups. These include the glutes, active back muscles, and core, which are often underdeveloped during regular running. From my personal experience, incorporating exercises with weights into my training program has proven effective in relieving the pain associated with muscular imbalances.

It is also worth noting that running and rucking can have similar benefits when performed carefully and with proper form. Both support improved aerobic fitness, mental clarity, general well-being, endurance, calorie burning, fat burning, and overall cardiovascular capacity. The main difference is the strength of the effects on the different areas of the body. Unlike other forms of cardio such as running or stationary cycling, training with weights strengthens the joints and muscle tendons with every step or movement you makewhile rucking.

Finally, alternating between different types of workouts, such as running and rucking, provides an added stimulus for progress and improvement in all areas of physical fitness. Progressive loading techniques allow you to build muscle strength and endurance while working different muscle groups to achieve a balanced physique.

Comparing the two exercises side by side and performing them correctly to get the most benefit, it is clear that rucking offers many unmatched advantages over traditional running exercises. Moving on to the next workout regimen can be beneficial for those who want to improve strength in specific areas of the body while maintaining their overall fitness level. Muscle strength and endurance are of utmost importance when training intensively for any event. Understanding both can help avoid injury while maximizing performance potential.

  • A 2005 study highlights the importance of rucking performance for success in Army Special Forces Assessment and Selection. In contrast to activities like running, push-ups or sit-ups, where candidates can easily improve through repeated practice, rucking requires a different approach
  • As per American Council on Exercise,  running burns more calories per minute than walking. People weighing about 160 lbs burn an estimated 15.1 calories per minute when running, while they burn about 8.7 calories per minute when walking if they are the same weight

Muscular Strength and Endurance

When it comes to muscular strength and endurance, rucking is often considered a better form of exercise than running. While there is ongoing debate about the effects of both forms of exercise on muscle mass, it is generally accepted that carrying a loaded backpack while rucking uses a wider range of muscles than running alone. The dynamic nature of backpack carrying, with its stride-like movement and shifting center of gravity, requires greater muscle activation throughout the body The muscles involved in rucking include all the leg muscles, the arms, and the shoulders — all of which are used with every step when you carry a weighted backpack. In addition, the extra weight on your back means you have to constantly tighten extra postural muscles to keep your balance and stay upright. This is a constant challenge for your muscles, which helps build stronger muscles and overall endurance.

On the other hand, running offers advantages when it comes to developing speed and specific muscle fatigue. In running, there is minimal resistance as each step does not add any extra weight, compared to rucking. This allows for explosive movements that enable rapid increases in speed. In addition, running allows you to focus on one muscle or limb at a time, resulting in greater fatigue than rucking. This can be beneficial for those training to develop muscle strength and power

Both activities can positively contribute to developing muscular strength and endurance, making them valuable additions to any fitness routine. Consistency is crucial for long-term health benefits, so incorporating a program that includes both similar and contrasting exercises may be ideal. It is important to listen to your body and understand your personal indicators for optimal results, rather than blindly following trends or suggestions alone. Now, let's delve deeper into the impact of cardiovascular exercise on overall health outcomes.

Cardiovascular Exercise

When looking into what type of exercise is best for your health, consider cardiovascular exercise as well as muscular strength and endurance. They are both crucial for overall body function, but cardiovascular exercise is also an essential part of a healthy lifestyle as it helps maintain a normal heart rate and reduces the risk of stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Cardiovascular exercise has been shown to improve aerobic fitness, burn calories, lower cholesterol levels, and improve overall physical performance. Running is often associated with greater cardiac benefits than rucking because of its faster pace and longer duration. It is well known that running contributes to better cardiovascular health. It is also widely recognized that running can improve overall cardiorespiratory fitness compared to alternative cardio activities such as walking or cycling.

However, it is important to know that running involves repetitive movements that can lead to overuse injuries if proper technique and form are not followed. On the other hand, rucking offers the opportunity to train longer while maintaining a slower pace, which can reduce the risk of injury if proper form is followed.

Overall, both types of exercises bring benefits to your health, but they require different training strategies to maximize their effectiveness. It all depends on what you want to achieve with the workout: if you want quick results, running might be a preferred choice; if you are looking for something more leisurely but still effective, rucking might be a better option. Ultimately, the right choice depends on individual preferences and goals.

In any case, moving on to the differences in speed and distance between rucking and running can help paint a fuller picture of which type of exercise is better suited to our particular needs and abilities.

Key Takeaway

When deciding which type of exercise is more beneficial to your health, consider cardiovascular activity (such as running) as well as muscular strength and endurance. Research suggests that running has greater cardiac benefits than rucking due to its faster pace and longer duration, although there is an increased risk of injury. Ultimately, the right choice depends on individual preferences and goals. Alternating between the two can help determine which type of exercise best suits one's abilities and needs.

Differences in Speed and Distance

The cardiovascular benefits of both rucking and running are undeniable. However, the biggest differences between the two activities are speed and distance. In general, you are much faster and can cover ground much quicker when running than when rucking.g. Consequently, if your fitness goals prioritize speed and distance, it would be more practical to focus on running rather than maintaining a consistent pace while carrying a heavy backpack..

On the other hand, it could be argued that the efficiency that comes with the pace of rucking makes this activity a highly beneficial form of exercise. If your goal is to cover as much distance as possible in a given amount of time, then a combination of running and rucking might be best to reap the benefits of both activities.

Regular physical activity, whether through rucking or running, offers several health benefits. These include improved muscle strength, flexibility, cardiovascular health and mental well-being. The choice between these two activities depends on your personal preferences and goals. It's important to listen to your body and adjust the intensity of the exercise accordingly to ensure a challenging yet manageable workout experience.

That being said, the choice is ultimately up to each individual. Whether you choose one or even combine them together depends on what offers the best health benefits for your body and mental well-being. By evaluating the level of difficulty and the goals that can be achieved with both methods, we can get a comprehensive picture of which type of physical activity offers the greatest benefits for our overall health.

Difficulty Levels of Rucking vs Running

There is no clear consensus on the relative difficulty of rucking versus running. Both exercises can be adapted to different fitness levels. For runners, the intensity can range from a leisurely jog around the park to longer trails through challenging terrain. The same is true for ruckers. They can choose easy routes or push themselves with strength- and endurance-challenging hills.

The debate over which is harder depends largely on the individual’s perspective and fitness goals. Some have argued that carrying a weighted backpack increases the difficulty level compared to running without extra weight, but others point out that running up hills is much more taxing on the musculoskeletal system than simply walking up them with a loaded backpack. Ruckers have been reported to burn more calories per mile compared to runners who do not carry any additional weight, such as running tech gear.

Ultimately, it comes down to whether you get more out of pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and running uphill or whether you want to add weight sooner rather than later to build more resistance in your workout routine. For beginners, it may make more sense to stick with an easier option depending on fitness levels — such as jogging when running or easy walking when rucking — depending on your fitness level as both activities become more difficult over time and space. As one progresses in either sport, the debate about which is more difficult becomes more subjective and largely depends on personal preference.

Regardless of which activity you ultimately choose, it is important to focus on the enjoyment of the exercise rather than worrying too much about the difficulty level or speed. Both offer many health benefits that come from exercising in nature, and variations in both can help make the experience new and exciting every time. As this section has shown, debates about the relative difficulty of rucking versus running are highly individual and nuanced. Are you ready for the next section discussing variations in ruck workouts?

Variations in Ruck Workouts

Ruck workouts can be a great way to get active and stay fit because they offer many of the same benefits as running. However, they offer variations that do not exist with running, such as the ability to increase or decrease intensity by adjusting the weight carried in a rucksack. This feature allows people with different fitness levels to customize their workouts and still reap the rewards associated with rucking.

For those seeking a moderate workout, carrying 10-20 lbs in a rucksack can provide an aerobic and anaerobic workout. The increased resistance helps strengthen muscles and improve cardiovascular health while maintaining a moderate level of exertion. It's also important to know that walking up and down hills with a load on your back uses different muscles than if you were simply walking on flat terrain with no extra weight.

For those looking for a more intense workout, heavier weights are known to burn up to 40% more calories compared to walking without extra weight. Elite military forces generally carry 35-45 lbs while hiking over extended distances, which has been found to significantly increase their VO2 max scores (a measure of the body’s aerobic capacity) compared to running at similar speeds.

On the other hand, putting too much stress on your body can put unnecessary strain on your bones and ligaments, leading to an increased risk of injury in certain individuals. Therefore, it is important for everyone to find their own balance when it comes to safely increasing the weights they carry while rucking and  to watch out for possible signs of discomfort or overloading their bodies as they go about their workouts.

In summary, both running and rucking are effective methods of improving physical fitness, but they may differ in difficulty. While running provides “fast-paced” exercises with varying speeds and distances, rucking has several adjustable levels that allow for customization of intensity and strength building. As long as individuals watch out for any signs of distress or overexertion, people of all fitness levels — from casual runners to hardcore athletes — can take advantage of rucking.

Frequently Asked Questions

What safety considerations should you make when running or rucking?

Before you start either activity, warm up properly by stretching and jogging lightly. This prepares your body for the activity ahead and can help prevent injury.

It's also important to have the right footwear that fits properly and provides enough cushioning and support. Replace shoes as soon as they are worn out as they no longer provide adequate cushioning. For rucking, make sure that the backpack you use is suitable for long distances so that it doesn't strain your back and shoulders. Consider investing in a waist belt to distribute the weight of the backpack evenly across your midsection while rucking.

Another important safety aspect is proper hydration. Make sure you bring enough water with you when running or rucking so you don't become dehydrated. It's also a good idea to do regular introspection and listen to your body while you are running and rucking so you can spot signs of fatigue or injury early. Finally, if possible, always run or ruck with a partner or group if possible, especially at night or in unfamiliar areas.

What types of exercise are best for running and rucking?

When it comes to running, it's best to focus on low-impact forms of exercise such as jogging, trail running, and even treadmill running. Running strengthens the cardiovascular system and musculoskeletal system through the high impact and increased oxygen intake with each step. Runners also enjoy an abundance of healthy endorphins that are released during running, which can help reduce stress hormones and improve mood.

Rucking, on the other hand, is excellent for strengthening the muscles in the middle of the body, arms and legs. When you do this, you walk with a weighted backpack on your back, which uses more energy than unloaded walking and makes your body work harder. This not only increases your heart rate but also your endurance and muscle definition as you have extra weight on your body while walking. So rucking is a fantastic way to train your lower body and build strength.

Overall, both running and rucking have their own distinct set of health and fitness benefits. Whether one is better than the other depends on individual needs and preferences.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of running and rucking?

Rucking, or carrying a weighted backpack on your back while walking, has the advantage of being a low-impact form of cardiovascular exercise. Rucking can be done anywhere or at any pace, making it a great option for those who have limited time or suffer from joint issues that are easily exacerbated by high-impact sports such as running. The extra weight on your body can accelerate fat loss and strengthen your core faster than exercising without extra weight.

On the other hand, running offers a more intense exercise with higher calorie burn. Running is an excellent stress reliever, thanks to the endorphins released during exercise and requires no special equipment such as a backpack or weights. Furthermore, running trains endurance and increases flexibility more effectively than rucking.

Ultimately, both activities offer their own unique benefits that make them invaluable tools for maintaining health and fitness. However, when it comes to deciding between rucking and running as a sustainable way to stay healthy in the long term, only you can decide which is best for your lifestyle.

About the author

Keith is a one bag traveler and the owner of Backpacks Global. His go to backpack is the Osprey FarPoint 40.

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