Looking for a fun way to get in shape while enjoying all that the great outdoors has to offer? It sounds like rowing fitness is perfect for you. This form of exercise can be dated back to the ancient Egyptian times and it’s still here today making waves. And by the end of this article, you’ll know why more and more people are flocking to the support in droves. We’ll unpack all the health benefits of rowing and explain how you can get started yourself. But before we get into all that, we want to answer a question many people reading this are probably asking themselves: what exactly is rowing fitness?
What Exactly Is “Rowing Fitness”?
As the name suggests, rowing fitness is a means of exercise by which you propel a boat using connected oars. While you can certainly row solo, rowing as part of a team is more prominent. This sense of teamwork is what draws many to the sport. But as you’ll learn throughout this article, this is just one of the many reasons rowing is worth diving into.
A Brief History Of Rowing
As we mentioned in the outlook of this article, evidence suggests rowing can be traced back to ancient Egypt. While today it is used as a form of functional fitness, it was originally used for two things: naval warfare and commercial transport. The use of up to 170 rowers was far and away the most efficient way to maneuver a boat quickly. The specific technique used was rather rudimentary - and today, it is much more polished and efficient. Leather cushions of the past have been replaced by a sliding seat that makes it easier to engage the leg and back muscles - which produce more strength and power than any other muscles in the body. Rowers sit with their back towards the direction they wish to travel, and with proper technique, can achieve remarkable speed.
While it was originally used as an essential form of transporting goods and warfare, today this fitness is recognized around the world as one of the most enjoyable, functional forms of exercise. In fact, rowing has been an olympic sport since 1900. And in an effort to make the benefits of rowing more accessible to all, rowing machines have made their way into gyms around the world. While the best way to enjoy this activity is still on the water, that may not always be possible - and you can still unlock the health benefits yourself using these machines. Speaking of which, what are the health benefits of rowing?
What Are The Health Benefits Of Rowing?
There is a reason more and more people are taking the leap and investing in boats and rowing equipment. This is one of the best forms of exercise you can implement. In our opinion, a huge reason for that is you get to be outside and fully immersed in nature. Finding a way to make your fitness journey fun and exciting is important for longevity. You want to look forward to your workout. And once you experience a day of rowing out on the water, you’ll never skip a workout again!
But besides just enjoying the serene bliss of a nice day on the water, what are the health benefits of rowing? Let’s take a look:
A Perfect Balance Of Cardiovascular Exercise With Strength Training
Some people consider rowing to be the pinnacle of exercise. You get more out of a rowing workout than perhaps any other exercise out there. Why? Because it offers a perfect balance of cardiovascular exercise with strength training. On top of that, it is incredibly safe compared to other styles - which we’ll get into later on. That’s because it is a low impact form of exercise, and very soft on your joints and connective tissues.
Furthermore, rowing requires technical perfection. To master this sport, you will need to get all your major muscle groups working in harmony. This takes great dexterity and acuity, two skills you won’t be able to train in the weight room or really any other sport for that matter.
Rowing Is Great For Your Mental Health, Too!
One of the benefits we talked about in the introduction to this section is how peaceful a day on the water is. With that said, rowing doesn’t just offer physical benefits - but benefits to your mental health, too. There is nothing like being out on the water breathing in fresh air and taking in the serenity of the great outdoors. This gives you a chance to be fully present - something that isn’t quite so easy to do while in the gym, on a treadmill at home, or in many other sports. You’ll be surprised the manner in which rowing affects your spiritual and mental health along with your physical.
Is Rowing Fitness Really Better Than Other Exercise Styles?
We know what you’re wondering - how does rowing stack up to other forms of popular exercise? You’re in luck - we’re going to take a few moments to compare rowing to running or walking, and even cycling. We’ll start with running and walking.
Running vs Rowing
The two factors you need to look at when comparing exercise styles: ability to induce work (what are you getting out of the exercise?) and safety. Both are important in choosing your ideal exercise form - and when comparing running and walking to rowing, you can probably guess which comes out on top.
While walking may be as safe as it gets, it doesn’t nearly cut it in terms of ability to induce work. Now let’s look at running. Kicking things up a notch, this exercise has great ability to induce work - you can get in fantastic shape as a runner. However, you also must take the safety factor into consideration. Running is brutal on your lower body joints - particular your ankles, knees, and hips.
Now - let’s compare these two to running. You get the best of both worlds in safety and ability to induce work. Rowing exercise can be either low intensity or high intensity, with high strength loads or low strength loads. And, it’s incredibly safe - there is next to no impact when rowing, so injury risk is very low. Now - let’s compare another popular style to rowing: cycling.
Rowing vs Cycling
Let’s take the same approach to comparing rowing to cycling as we just did. In terms of ability to induce load, cycling is great - but it is really quite limited to your lower body. Sure, you’ll incorporate your upper body to some degree in order to stabilize yourself on the bike. But you won’t get that lower body and upper body strength training that you get with rowing.
And in terms of calories burned, you may be surprised to learn that rowing actually burns more calories compared to cycling. And, rowing requires more mental training than cycling does - this can be a pro and a con. Rowing technique is more difficult to learn than cycling. But with consistent training, you’ll get the hang of it quickly.
Now - in terms of injury, both of these exercises are relatively safe, low impact movements. With that said, cycling on the road is inherently dangerous - you will constantly have that thought of being hit by a car in the back of your mind. Sure, you could train indoors - but you lose out on that outdoor element that rowing offers.
How Can I Get Started With Rowing Fitness?
As you can see, there are a myriad of health benefits of rowing. And compared to other similar exercise styles, rowing fitness is safer and produces better bang for your buck. All this considered, you’re probably wondering how you can get started yourself. And we’ve got great news for you - it’s not as difficult or as expensive as you may have assumed. Whether you invest in an indoor rowing machine or use one at your gym, or you decide to do it right and row outdoors on the water, we’ll walk you through it below:
Rowing Indoors On A Machine
In terms of practicality, you can’t beat rowing indoors on a machine. Chances are, you can find rowing machines at your local gym or fitness center. These are a great choice for those who don’t live by a body of water or a rowing club of any sort. They’re also great for those times of year when your local lake is frozen over. With that said, very few machines replicate traditional rowing as it was intended. You will obviously lose the mental benefits of training outdoors in nature. But, you also won’t get the same technique and range of motion on these machines.
While there are really effective competition rowing machines that simulate the water experience closely, they’re not frequently found in your local gym. You may have to buy one of these yourself for your garage gym. If you are going to buy one of these machines, it’s important to go with a water based rowing machine. This is the style we just discussed, and will get you the most bang for your buck. But even with these machines, you cannot replace rowing on the water as it was intended.
Rowing Outdoors On The Water (Preferred Choice)
Once you’ve experienced a rowing workout on the water yourself, you’ll understand what we mean when we say you can’t replicate it. It’s unlike anything else. And these days, it’s more accessible than you may think. Investing in a boat isn’t nearly as expensive as you may think. This is especially true when comparing these to the cost of a quality exercise bike (or a real bike), a treadmill, or a home weight training set. And when you consider all the additional benefits you gain from rowing out on the water, it’s a no-brainer investment.
There are two types of boats we’d recommend for you to get started with:
- ROWonAIR - These are the most affordable, value-packed way to get started rowing. You can attach these systems to your existing inflatable kayak, a SUP, or any other type of boat and get started. Or, you can purchase a ROWonAIR boat along with a ROWonAIR system.
- The Grabner inflatable boats are a great choice for attaching the aforementioned system to. These kayaks and canoes come in a range of sizes and can accommodate varying number of people. They’re eco-friendly to boot!
These are both affordable solutions to getting started with rowing, and they’ll last you years and years of reliable use. You can choose from a variety of styles depending on your preferred rowing style. There are two ROWonAIR styles depending on the direction you want to face. While traditional rowing suggests rear facing is the way to go, you can also invest in a forward facing system if you want to see the direction in which you’re traveling.
Final Thoughts On The Health Benefits Of Rowing
You’re now well aware of the health benefits of rowing fitness. You also understand why this exercise is superior to other popular styles. With the tips we provided on how to get started, there is just one thing left to do - start considering which rowing setup is best for you! You’ll look back and be glad you decided to invest in rowing, as this sport will provide you with memories that last a lifetime. And you’ll improve your physical and mental health along the way. Get all your rowing essentials at Red Beard Sailing today!