Carry That Weight (But Not That Weight)

Carrying weight for distance is the best form of exercise — but let’s not overthink it

Michael Easter

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Photo by Toomas Tartes on Unsplash

I recently wrote about rucking and how the human body was built to carry weight over distance. Humans are unique among animals because we can carry stuff from point A to B. As we evolved, we’d use this skill to hunt and gather, which allowed us to expand as a species, fuel our expensive brains, and, eventually, take over the world. (If you want to know more about that, read my book, The Comfort Crisis.)

Still today, carrying is arguably the best form of exercise. It works your cardio and strength at once—cardio for people who hate to run and lifting for people who hate the gym. (It’s also particularly good for women, which I wrote about in my newsletter.)

These revelations are why, especially since the release of my book, more people are taking up rucking—walking with a weighted pack. As they should! Rucking is perhaps the best form of exercise you can do.

But as my book has grown in popularity, more people have reached out to me with questions that suggest to me that they’re missing a greater point. I’ve noticed a fixation with the exact number of pounds in the pack. Many people want to know the secret number that will lead to optimal health and fitness. Or some want to load the sucker up so they can take to Instagram to brag how much weight they carried.

More than a hundred years of research has landed on this: Carrying too little weight won’t work your body enough and too much will break it. It seems that the sweet spot for most people is somewhere between 15 and 50 pounds.

This overthinking is part of a greater trend I’ve seen in exercise. Exercise has devolved into something that happens by numbers and figures and time intervals. Metrics over enjoyment.

I think about exercise as; 1. Something we do to fight back against the deleterious health impacts of our modern lifestyles (after all, we basically “invented” exercise after The Industrial Revolution started removing movement from our lives); and 2. Something that makes doing “the real thing” less miserable.

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Michael Easter

Author of The Comfort Crisis // Professor // Writing about physical + mental health, psychology, and living better 1x week // eastermichael.com