Backpacking for Fitness and Weight loss



Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, once said, “Walking is man’s best medicine.” I believe this holds true. Walking is a great way to start, improve, and maintain a basic level of fitness. Although, on its own it lacks the strenuousness required to improve muscle mass, core strength, and bone density. Once you have accomplished a basic level of walking fitness, the next step is to put on a backpack and add some weight! This form of backpacking for fitness is called ‘rucking’ which originates in the military.

Rucking is one of the best ways to improve your conditioning. By adding a weighted backpack to your walks you are greatly increasing the amount of work your cardiovascular and muscular systems have to do. This increases your cardiovascular fitness while improving whole-body strength (particularly the core and back). By increasing the load, you are also increasing the amount of impact your skeleton takes. This helps improve your bone mineral density, and is a great option for older individuals as it is accessible for all fitness enthusiasts.

How to Begin Backpacking for Fitness and Weight Loss

The only equipment you need to get started is a backpack and something to put in it! To start off, choose a route you want to walk. Start with an easy distance and walk it with the empty backpack. Next time you go for a walk, maintain the distance and add 10-pounds to your pack (anything can be added to make the weight: books, weights, rocks, logs, etc.). Every time you go for your walk, add a little more weight. If you are struggling to complete the walk at a certain weight, maintain the weight and keep walking the same distance until you can accomplish it with ease. As with any training, you should always strive to make it challenging to keep reaping the benefits. As you become adapted to the challenge, you can keep progressing your rucks in one of two ways: you can increase the distance with lighter weights, or you can decrease the distance while greatly increasing the weight. When you go for shorter, heavier rucks, you will be helping to improve your strength and muscular conditioning. When you go for longer, lighter rucks, you will be improving your cardiovascular conditioning more. Ideally you would alternate between the two styles, two to three times a week.

Rucking is a great way to burn calories as well. The average person will burn between 400 and 600-calories an hour when walking with a full backpack. This a great advantage if you are trying to lose weight while maintaining muscle mass.

Where Can I Backpack?

The beauty of this style of training is its versatility. You can train on the pavement while walking around your block, or you can take your training into green spaces. Using your training to get into nature will also reap the benefits of nature exposure. Just remember to follow the Best Practices for Hiking when you head out.

Josh Wood

Coach Josh Wood, BHSc, is a Fitness Coach and Wilderness Guide who lives in Hobart, Tasmania, and works to help people find their passion for activity. He spent most of the last decade studying the body through manual therapies, health science, and fitness. With a background in teaching Massage Therapists and Personal Trainers he also writes for various online publications which keeps his communication skills sharp. His diverse background brings the many facets of health and fitness together. Head over to coachjoshwood.com to learn more!

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