If you’re looking for a great way to lose weight while you’re stuck at home or in your spare time, there’s no shortage of options for you to choose from. But two of the most popular and effective ways to lose weight are running and rowing.
However, these two exercises are very different in terms of the quality of the exercise and which is better for you. Below we’re going to compare the rowing machine vs running in terms of the workout you get, which is better for who, and more.
Let’s get right to it…
Whether you run outdoors or indoors, running is an incredibly popular form of cardio. This is mostly because it’s easy to start doing and has a host of benefits. For starters, running is an effective way to maintain or lose weight, a powerful stress reliever and helps you plow through your day with vim & vigor.
Running also releases endorphins, which improve your mood and energy levels. And it’s an excellent lower-body workout to cap things off.
Benefits of Running
Running has benefits beyond simply improving cardio and helping you lose weight. You probably know many of them intuitively but perhaps haven’t seen them in list form. Here are some of our favorite benefits and advantages to running:
- You can mix up your scenery to keep things interesting – you can do “free running”, run trails, or even just run around the block.
- Running can strengthen your bones and help build muscle.
- It burns calories.
- Can be done anytime, anywhere.
- Running is cheap — you don’t need anything other than a great pair of shoes.
- Distance running helps to build cardiovascular health and is a great mental exercise.
- Running improves your energy levels.
- Sprinting is a great form of high-intensity interval training that helps to increase speed and endurance.
- Requires minimal training.
- Running is a high-impact sport that puts stress on your joints.
- It can also cause back, knee, and other joint pain.
- If you’re flat-footed or are lacking in good arches, you can injure yourself.
- Traffic and weather can impact your schedule.
- If you’re out of shape or overweight, running can be very hard to start and even harder to stick with.
Rowing machines are good for people of all fitness levels, and it’s a low-impact exercise, so it burns serious calories without putting unnecessary stress on your joints.
You can control the pace and movement and it’s even recommended as an exercise option for those with early stages of osteoarthritis.
How a rowing machine works is easy enough to understand.
It comes with a body and a flywheel that connects to a handle — it simulates the feeling of being on a rowing boat.
This exercise recruits many muscles including your back, legs, abs, and biceps while getting your blood flowing and providing all of the cardio benefits you would get from running.
Rowers also have settings to change the resistance up or down which makes it friendly to beginners and those who are overweight or haven’t worked out in a long time.
Benefits of Rowing
Rowing hasn’t been around for as long as running so you may not know the benefits or how they stack up against running.
Firstly, rowing stimulates most of the muscles of your body which gives you an even better workout and, as you know, the more muscle you build, the more calories you burn throughout the day.
Second, rowing is an activity that any fitness level can do.
From CrossFit athletes to beginners and everyone in between. Unlike running, rowing doesn’t put the same pressure on your joints which means you’re more likely to start and continue rowing.
With running, if you’re out of shape or flat footed, you can easily hurt yourself or get so sore that you have to stop for a while. Thus, running becomes far less effective – because you’re unable to do it.
Here’s are a few more benefits and advantages to rowing:
- Low impact – almost any fitness level or weight can do rowing and keep rowing because you aren’t putting the pressure on your joints.
- You can perform both extended sessions and high intensity sessions for cardio.
- Helps you build more muscle and tone your body.
- It recruits many of the muscles in your body.
- Most models can be folded for easy storage
- Most rowing machines are quieter than treadmills
- Most models don’t require a power supply
- You can track stats on the rower including time, calories, distance, and more
Disadvantages of Rowing Machines
- Budget models can be unreliable
- Quality rowers can be expensive
- Some people might find rowing dull and lose motivation
Head-To-Head Comparison Of Rowing & Running
When running, you primarily use muscles in your lower body, such as quads, hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, and calves. Your abs also act as supporting muscles so they will also be strengthened from running.
With rowing, you’ll exercise more muscles in both your upper and lower body. And because the abs are your primary mover in this case, it also builds core strength.
Between the two, rowing offers a more balanced workout in regards to muscles involved. Running really only works your lower body. However, running is harder on your legs than rowing is.
Unfortunately, for those with weaker joints, running isn’t a good choice, as it is a high-impact sport and may lead to injuries. As a result, many runners suffer from all sorts of pain – back pain, knee pain, foot pain, and more.
On the contrary, rowing is a low-impact sport and isn’t weight-bearing, so you’re not stressing your joints like you do with running. For those who suffer from arthritis or joint pain, rowing could be a great running alternative for you.
There’s a few things to think about if you want to get started with rowing — you have to find the best rower for your needs, make sure you have space, and learn how to row with good form.
Running, on the other hand, is a more convenient choice for cardio since you can do it anytime, anywhere without any equipment. Of course, the exception to this rule is if you plan on running indoors in which case you need a treadmill.
But apart from this, running is a time and cost-effective way to exercise. You already know how to run but if you plan on actually starting a running routine, we highly recommend you learn how to run properly. This can help you avoid injury.
Both running and rowing are great calorie burners and not many exercises can do a better job.
The American Council on Exercise found that a 150-pound individual can burn 181 calories by running for 30 minutes at a pace of 5 miles per hour while doing the same amount of rowing will burn 158 calories.
Needless to say they’re pretty similar in calories burned. The truth is that the one that burns the most calories is the one you’re going to do the most consistently.
Both running and rowing are amazing cardio workouts, and every benefit you get from running can also be achieved through rowing. However, unlike running, you have the option to add resistance as you row, which means you can train to increase your VO2 max and work towards your target heart rate.
While you find this option in fancy treadmills, this isn’t something you can find on your average treadmill or jog in the park.
Because rowing activates more muscle groups compared to running, rowing is potentially a better workout than running for the same duration.
However, top rowers argue that in order to get the full benefit of rowing, you’ll need to exert yourself more than running. And unlike treadmills, you’ll often find rowing machines free, as people find them to be intimidating.
Of course, running gets the award for this category since running outside doesn’t cost you any money. But as mentioned, if you prefer running on a treadmill, it’s at least as expensive as rowing if not more money. Your top of the line rower like the Concept2 is significantly less than the top of the line treadmill.
Stand out Features
- Rowing machines always come with an LCD monitor that tracks every statistic you need to know such as time, calories, distance, heart rate, and more.
- Rowing machines also come with resistance levels that you can freely adjust to increase or decrease the intensity of your workout.
- Rowing is a low-impact sport and won’t put pressure on your knees, joints, or back.
- Workout anytime, anywhere — running is accessible to anyone and can be done anywhere at no cost. While treadmills are the exception, they cost as much as or more than rowing.
Here are some of the most recommended machines for both running and rowing:
- The Nordic Track T Series treadmills
- Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515: Great magnetic rowing machine. Multiple levels of resistance. Large LCD monitor for statistics display. Transportation wheels from easy storage.
- Concept2 Model D: The best rowing machine overall. Uses a flexible design that will fit most users. Separates into two pieces for easier storage. Tracks your progress with a real-time performance monitor. Air-resistance flywheel to control your workout intensity.
After reading all of that, you probably have a pretty good idea of which one is the best for you. That being said, let’s do a quick recap…
A rowing machine is your best bet if:
- You want a low impact exercise
- You’re out of shape and need something that you can start with and use forever – even when you’re a conditioned athlete
- You have flat feet or collapsed arches
Running is the best exercise for you if:
- You’ve run before, in recent history, and you’re confident that you can start running and continue running for months or years into the future
- You want a cost-effective way to workout
- You enjoy running
- You like being outside or inside on a treadmill
When it comes to comparing a rowing machine vs running, the choice is personal to a certain extent. When looking at the information presented, you can see that rowing is an exercise you can do for life. A rowing machine works to challenge both beginners and athletes which means you can essentially use it forever. Running, on the other hand, is also great but harder on your joints and not a great exercise for beginners or those who are overweight or out of shape.