Here is an interesting question concerning people who like to ruck for exercise as well as to keep them in tactical fighting shape. Whether the enemy is a terrorist in the mountains or a wildfire on a high desert plain, some people ruck for a living. I have always wondered this question as well, especially when rucking is compared to normal walking or running for calorie-burning numbers. Here is the email question:
Stew, As a former 82nd Airborne Division officer/paratrooper and current firefighter/paramedic, I love your workouts -- thanks for all you do! I have an app (cardio trainer) that I use to keep track of my mileage when I run or ruck. It also keeps track of calories burned, but obviously it is not the primary reason for my workouts. It is a fun motivator, though.
My question is, do you know of any sort of calorie conversion for ruck marching? The app tells me how many I burned for walking 5 miles (and I realize that is just an estimate, but I assume I burn a lot more calories carrying a 40 pound ruck the same distance). It would just be fun to know how many.
Great question and thanks. I do not know the weighted walk conversions, but I would guess it would be similar to if you weighed an extra 40 pounds, you would burn more calories. As you know, a 250-pound person burns more calories walking than a 200-pound person.
I just went to a calorie calculator online and did a 60-minute walk at 4 mph for my weight of 200 pounds. I burn 468 calories. With a 50-pound pack, I would weigh 250 pounds and burn 585 calories at the same pace.
So it looks like you can add in 100-150 calories by adding a 40- to 50-pound backpack to a 4-mph walk.
Since walking with a ruck at 4 mph is the bare minimum standard for military rucking, here is a good test if you put out a little more. Try 5 mph or a 12-minute mile with 40 pounds. Still not blazing fast but a better indicator of effort with/without a ruck.
If you input a 60-minute jog at 5 mph for a weight of 200 pounds, I burn 768 calories. With a 50-pound pack, I would weigh 250 pounds and burn 960 calories at the same pace.
So it looks like you can add 100-200 calories by adding a 40- to 50-pound backpack to a fast walk/jog, depending on your weight and pace.
Now there is a calorie-burning standard for backpacking, which is typically a weighted stroll at a much slower pace of 1-2 mph. At my weight of 200 pounds, I burned 670 calories "backpacking" and 840 calories burned if I placed an extra 50 pounds on me. So -- yes, it makes sense that you would burn more calories by either going faster than "backpacking pace," which I would average out at 4-5 mph, as well as when you are carrying even more weight in a ruck.
So a precise answer is tough as this is a bit all over the place. I think a safe calorie estimate for rucking with 40-50 pounds is to add 40%-50% to what a walking/jogging calorie burn would be at that pace. So if you are burning 450 calories just walking at 4 mph, then you would add 180-225 calories to that number and get roughly 630-675 calories burned an hour with rucking.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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