Benefits to Rucking & Your Back with Dr. McGill

Benefits to Rucking & Your Back with Dr. McGill

To travel, to get around town, and to workout — movement is necessary. As we get older, finding a safe and effective way to move becomes essential for injury prevention, mobility, and overall health.

The cardio benefits from rucking help to reduce blood pressure and inflammation, improve sleep quality and brain function, and strengthen bone density, which can help treat or prevent osteoporosis. The best way to stop and even reverse bone loss - according to Dr. Robert Wermers, a bone disease specialist with the Mayo Clinic - is to do “aerobic walking where you’re bearing weight.” i.e., rucking.

Not only is rucking easier on your knees than most other sports or fitness activities, but it also improves your posture as the weight of the rucksack pulls your shoulders into proper alignment while moving.

A likely response to rucking being easier on your knees than running is Yeah but what about your back, it sucks for your back. And while there is no definitive study out there detailing the long term or even short term effects of military rucking on your back, suffice to say that excessive loads, 125 lbs etc. are not to be replicated. Special Forces remains a goldmine of lessons at the extremes.

But what about at lighter weights? 20 lbs, 30 lbs, 50 lbs. What about at ⅓ of your body weight? Is it possible that rucking could even help your back?

Yes, it is.

One of the leading experts on back pain, Dr. Stuart McGill, sat down with GORUCK Founder Jason McCarthy to discuss the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle and how rucking is used as a safe and scalable exercise to prevent back pain and improve resilience.

“The health of all systems in your body require movement. That’s just a foundational fact. Your cardiovascular system, your joint health, brain function, kidney function, everything requires movement for optimal health. The primal movement, if you want to call it that, that really has tremendous widespread health values is walking. And you can’t get away from that. The next issue is one of progression, to build resilience and robustness in a person’s life so they can enjoy all kinds of things that life has to offer. A progression for walking would be, now, walk up a hill, now add load to it. And you could do that through a backpack for example, and now you’ve got rucking.”

— Dr. Stuart McGill author of Back Mechanic and professor emeritus, Waterloo University