Rowing Toward a Healthy Heart

Rowing is an effective full-body, non-impact exercise regime. Discover why new rowing studios and classes are popping up everywhere, and why many home exercisers are swapping their favorite equipment for a rowing machine.

What’s the latest trend at the gym these days? It’s rowing! While rowing itself isn’t new, new rowing studios and classes are cropping up across the country. Many home exercisers are also switching from stationery bikes and treadmills to rowing machines.

Rowing’s recent popularity boost is well deserved. Unlike running, cycling, or even a high-intensity Spin class, which target lower body muscles, rowing works both upper and lower body at the same time. People of all ages can benefit from this low-impact workout.

Rowing’s biggest benefits

  1. Burns more calories than running. Rowing burns more calories than running, Spinning, and many other popular cardiovascular workouts because it involves two directions of resistance—forward and back. That simultaneous push/pull gives you a similar metabolic boost to strength training, which means you keep burning calories after you’ve hopped off the machine.
  2. Works upper and lower body. There’s a sense that rowing mostly involves your upper body, including back, arm and shoulder muscles, but when it’s done correctly, rowing also works the legs, hips and buttocks. It’s really about pushing with your legs and tightening your abdominal muscles. Over time, the repeated exertion improves muscle strength and endurance in all your major muscle groups.
  3. Good for your heart. While rowing, your heart has to work harder to pump the blood that delivers energy and nutrients to your working muscles. Every time you do a rowing workout, your body is adapting to that harder work. Over time, your heart gets stronger and healthier.
  4. Affordable. The per-class charge is likely to be comparable to a yoga or Spin class. The big cost savings come in with home exercise equipment. A high-end rowing machine costs about $800, compared to about $5,000 for a top-of-the-line treadmill or elliptical trainer. A rowing machine also stores easily; just fold it up and roll it out of sight.
  5. Joint-friendly. Rowing is a low-impact sport you can do even while nursing an injury. With your feet planted on the footpads and your hands locked on to the grips, there’s little to no impact on the ankles, knees, hips, elbows or shoulder joints. Rowing is even appropriate for pregnant and postpartum women whose alignment may be compromised, and it’s also great for older adults concerned about balance.
  6. Stress busting. Rowing offers consistent, repetitive movement that acts almost like a form of active meditation. Since cardio workouts release feel-good hormones in the body, rowing is a great way to de-stress.

Before you start rowing, it’s best to get clearance from your doctor—just as you should with any new exercise program. Be careful if you have sciatica, low back issues or a hip injury, because rowing can increase the pain. Ask a trainer or fitness instructor how to do it correctly for the best benefits.


Have you discovered the benefits of rowing? Share your tips for getting the most out of a rowing session!

Severe chest pain is not always present with a heart attack, especially for older adults, people with diabetes and women. They may experience sudden shortness of breath, coughing, dizziness, fatigue or weakness. Don’t take a chance. Call 9-1-1.