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'Rucking' vs. Running: What's More Effective for Weight Loss?

A trainer breaks down the benefits of each and which may be better to focus on for weight loss.
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

Picture this: You're out on a crisp morning, the sun just peeking over the horizon, and you're embarking on your latest fitness journey. Maybe you're an avid runner, feeling the rhythmic beat of your feet against the pavement. Or perhaps you've heard about the rising trend of "rucking"—walking with a weighted backpack—and you're curious about giving it a go. Both activities promise great workouts, but you may have one question on your mind: Rucking vs. running, which is more effective for weight loss?

As a sports performance coach and an enthusiastic hiker and runner, I've spent countless hours exploring the benefits of various workouts. I've seen clients transform their bodies and lives through tailored fitness programs, and I've personally experienced the highs and lows of both running and rucking. The debate between these two fitness methods often boils down to effectiveness, enjoyment, and sustainability. Each has unique advantages and challenges, empowering you to understand what fits best with your lifestyle and goals.

In this article, I'll explore the benefits of rucking and running, examining their impact on weight loss and overall fitness. By the end, you'll clearly understand which activity might best fit you and why.

Benefits of Rucking

rucking intervals outdoors on trail

Rucking, simply put, is walking with a weighted backpack. It might sound straightforward, but this exercise packs a punch in terms of fitness benefits. One of the standout advantages of rucking is its low-impact nature. Rucking provides a gentler alternative than running, which can be harsh on the joints, especially for those with existing injuries or conditions. The added weight increases the intensity of a regular walk without the jarring impact on your knees, hips, and ankles.

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Rucking is also incredibly versatile and accessible. You can start with a light backpack and gradually increase the weight as your strength and endurance improve. This adaptability makes it an excellent choice for beginners and seasoned athletes alike.

Additionally, rucking engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously, particularly your legs, core, and back, improving muscle tone and strength. Plus, the rhythmic, steady nature of walking can be meditative, helping to reduce stress and improve mental health.

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Benefits of Running

fit woman running outdoors, concept of best exercises to melt belly fat

Running is a classic cardio workout that has stood the test of time for good reason. It's one of the most efficient ways to burn calories and is crucial for weight loss. A vigorous run can torch through calories rapidly, making it a practical option for those looking to shed pounds quickly. Running also boosts cardiovascular health, improving heart and lung function and increasing stamina.

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Another significant benefit of running is its convenience and simplicity. You don't need any special equipment beyond a good pair of running shoes, and you can do it almost anywhere—around your neighborhood, on a treadmill, or through scenic trails.

Running also releases a surge of endorphins, the body's natural feel-good hormones, often called the "runner's high." This mood-boosting effect can make running a physical activity and a mental escape, enhancing overall well-being.

Rucking vs. Running: Which is More Productive for Weight Loss and Why?

fitness couple running on the beach

Regarding weight loss, rucking and running have merits, but the best choice depends on your preferences and physical condition. Due to its high-intensity nature, running generally burns more calories in a shorter amount of time. On the one hand, running might be the more effective option if your primary goal is to lose weight quickly and you don't have any joint issues. The high-calorie burn and improved cardiovascular health make running a powerful tool for weight loss.

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On the other hand, rucking offers a sustainable, low-impact alternative that can be equally effective over time. While it might not burn calories as quickly as running, the added weight in rucking increases the overall energy expenditure, making it a solid option for steady, consistent weight loss. Rucking's versatility and reduced injury risk make it easier to stick with long-term, which is crucial for maintaining weight loss and overall fitness.

As a sports performance coach with extensive experience in both running and hiking, I've seen how different approaches can yield fantastic results. The key is choosing the activity you enjoy and can maintain consistently. Whether pounding the pavement or striding through trails with a weighted pack, the most important thing is to stay active, challenge yourself, and have fun with your fitness journey.

Jarrod Nobbe, MA, CSCS
Jarrod Nobbe is a USAW National Coach, Sports Performance Coach, Personal Trainer, and writer, and has been involved in health and fitness for the past 12 years. Read more about Jarrod
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