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8 Benefits of Rowing for Fitness and Health

Treadmills, ellipticals, and exercise bikes may traditionally be the go-to cardio equipment for most people, but while these can all provide a great workout, you may be missing out on another fantastic form of exercise: Rowing. While it’s common to think that the benefits of rowing are limited to just strengthening the upper body and back,  Moreover, rowing machines simultaneously provide cardio benefits similar to other aerobic exercises such as running, cycling, and swimming, along with the strengthening benefits of muscle-building exercises like weight lifting and climbing stairs.

If you’re feeling stuck in a rut with your current fitness routine or are interested in taking on the most efficient and effective ways to get in shape, keep reading for a list of the benefits of rowing. Even if you’ve been hesitant to give rowing a try, you may just find yourself rethinking your next workout and swapping your run or spin class for a workout on the rowing machine.

Man using rowing machine for fitness.
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Benefits of Rowing

Man rowing in a gym.
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The benefits of rowing are extensive, spanning the gamut from improving cardiovascular fitness to improving posture. Here are some of the primary health benefits of rowing:

Rowing Improves Cardiovascular Health and Fitness

Rowing is an excellent aerobic workout. You’ll get your heart rate elevated and find yourself breathing heavier within just a few minutes. In this way, rowing improves your cardiovascular health and fitness and can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Rowing Is a Total Body Workout

A man's strong legs from rowing.
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Although many people imagine rowing to be an upper-body exercise, most of the power for the rowing stroke actually comes from your legs. In fact, when looking at the rowing stroke, 60% of the work should be done by the legs, 30% from the core, and just 10% from the upper body. Moreover, studies investigating the muscular recruitment patterns with rowing have found that rowing uses roughly 86% of the muscles in your body, making it a fantastic total-body workout. Rowing strengthens your quads, glutes, core, lats, shoulders, hamstrings, biceps, and calves.

Rowing Burns a Lot of Calories

Man using a rowing machine.
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One of the benefits of total-body workouts like rowing is that they burn a lot of calories. By using most of the major muscles in your body, rowing requires a lot of energy and makes for an efficient calorie burn. Additionally, a rowing machine is a great way to get in a challenging high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout, which stokes your metabolism and helps your body burn more calories even once you’re done exercising. Try rowing relatively easily for a few minutes to warm up, and then push yourself through hard intervals of 30-90 seconds followed by easy recovery rows.

Rowing Is a Time-Efficient Way to Exercise

Most of us are super busy these days and don’t have an endless amount of time to dedicate to working out. Therefore, efficiency when it comes to exercise is key. One of the benefits of rowing is that it can provide a cardio and strength training workout simultaneously, saving you time when you have lots of things on your plate. A vigorous 20-minute workout on a rowing machine can be enough to improve your fitness, reduce your risk of lifestyle diseases, and help you maintain a healthy weight.

Rowing Is a Low-Impact Activity

Concept 2 erg rowing machine.
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If you suffer from joint pain, arthritis, or chronic musculoskeletal injuries, rowing may be exactly what you are looking for when it comes to a joint-friendly form of exercise. Rowing is considered a low-impact exercise, like cycling, elliptical trainers, and swimming, so it puts less stress on your joints, bones, and connective tissues than running, jumping, and other high-impact sports. As long as you’re using proper form, the risk of injury on a rowing machine is also very low.

Rowing Is Calming

Rowing can be quite meditative and many people find that rowing is a great way to reduce anxiety and induce a sense of peace. The stroke is rhythmic and repetitive, but not in a boring way. Like other forms of exercise, rowing also produces endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that elevate your mood, so you’ll leave your workout feeling happier, calmer, and more confident.

Rowing Can Improve Your Posture and Core Strength

The rowing stroke relies heavily on core activation and control, so it can help you build core strength and improve your posture over time. A strong core can reduce the incidence of low back pain and help prevent injuries. Plus, because good form is crucial with rowing, it’s also a good way to increase your mind-body connection and kinesthetic awareness.

Rowing Is Motivating

If you’re using a rowing machine, it’s easy to keep track of your metrics and watch how much you’re improving over time. Because rowing is a learned skill, most beginners get to experience significant improvements quickly, which is really motivating. Even if you’ve been using a rowing machine for years, you can continue to challenge yourself and play games in your workouts to see if you can hit new milestones and personal bests, which can keep your mind engaged.

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