Live Longer, Live Stronger: How Rucking, Wall Pilates and Cryotherapy Can Add Life to Your Years

Rucking in nature

When Dr. Peter Attia talks, people listen. At least, anyone over 50 does. He’s like the E.F. Hutton of aging. 

If you’re unfamiliar with that reference, count yourself among the fortunate; youth still dances through your veins. But for all those who mistake TikToks for tiny white mints rather than the digital heartbeat for a generation, read on.

Dr. Attia, author of the seminal work on longevity titled Outlive, is deemed by many as the man who has unlocked the formula for not just adding years to life but life to years. He leaves no room for ambiguity in his prescription for longevity: focus on lifestyle, nutrition, physical fitness, sleep, and stress management. But of these, Attia writes, exercise is the most powerful longevity tool. 

Attia is a big proponent of the fitness activity called “rucking,” essentially walking quickly with a weighted backpack. “Carrying weight over distances is inherent to, and shaped our species,” he writes. “Rucking is a practical way to add carrying back into our lives.”


The Bay Area’s first and only ruck-specific business opened this April in Mill Valley. Ruck Evolution, launched by fitness trainer Bria Ruben, takes groups on one-hour outdoor rucks throughout Marin County. Ruben says what makes rucking so unique is how accessible it is. “If you can walk, you can ruck,” she exclaims. Ruben recommends loading up the backpack with between 10 percent and 20 percent of your body weight. While her company provides performance backpacks made for carrying their custom, adjustable water weights, she notes you can use any backpack, and your rucks don’t need to be an hour long to provide benefits. “You can ruck while waiting for your kid’s baseball game. You can ruck with a friend on a quick walk down the bike path. You can even ruck if you’re mowing your lawn. It’s completely social, has an incredibly low incidence of injury, combines cardio and strength training, and is an amazing tool for weight loss.” Do it for several weeks, she says, and you’ll realize that “my glutes are stronger, I’m walking faster, my shoulders are back, and my core is stronger. I am stronger.'”

How rucking helps: Builds strength, endurance, and outdoor time benefits mind-body connection.
Frequency: Three times a week is ideal. Aim for at least 150 minutes per week.
What you need: Water bottle, and good walking/hiking shoes. Backpacks and weight is provided.
Cost: Ruck Evolution classes cost $25 for an hour class.


Wall Pilates
Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

While rucking addresses strength and endurance, another aspect of exercise, Attia stresses, is stability to prevent falls. According to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults. 

Ronda Priestner, founder of Fitwise Pilates in Mill Valley, says Pilates is the perfect tool for injury avoidance because it focuses on stability with mobility. More importantly, she adds, it addresses fascial integrity. Fascia is the thin casing of connective tissue that surrounds and holds every organ, nerve fiber and muscle in place. Priestner points out that if you don’t have a supple fascia, then you don’t have flexibility or strength. Pilates also works the neuro communication and neuro education needed for balance. While traditional Pilates utilizes a range of equipment in a studio, wall Pilates requires very little space and no equipment. “What we love about wall Pilates is everybody’s got a wall,” Priestner says. “We teach this a lot when folks are traveling, and we give them routines to do at home or in a hotel. You may only have 10 minutes, but with wall Pilates, you get a lot of bang for your time. It’s fantastic.”

How wall Pilates helps: Builds balance, strength and flexibility
Frequency: As little as 5-30 minutes daily.
What you need: Just a wall or floor mat.
Cost: Fitwise Pilates classes cost $45 for a 50-minute class.


But what about recovery from all this new activity? Nothing is hotter right now than cold. Cold plunges get a lot of attention, and there are studios in Berkeley and San Francisco, but here in Marin we have a more comfortable solution called “cryotherapy.” The mantra of Brrrrr Cryotherapy in San Rafael is “repair, revive, renew.” Brrrrr uses freezing cold temperatures, down to -200F to promote healing, speed recovery, reduce inflammation, and remove stress. In sessions that only last three minutes, the user steps into a private octagon-shaped device called a cryochamber wearing protective gloves, booties, and underwear. The chamber has an open top, so your head is excluded from the cold. Then vaporized liquid nitrogen is pumped in to create a sudden drop in ambient temperature, which, it goes without saying, gets the blood pumping! And since there is no moisture in the chamber, the cold is not only bearable but rejuvenating. “It works on your endorphins,” according to owner Deborah McDaniels. “It’s like a runner’s high amplified.”

How cryotherapy helps: Reduces inflammation, promotes healing.
Frequency: Three-minute session daily.
What you need: Just your smile.
Cost: Brrrrrr Cryotherapy sessions cost $60.