Is Rowing Better Than Running 

Updated April 2022

Thanks for taking your time to read our information on is rowing better than running? The first thing that is worth pointing out that both are forms of exercise that are very good for you, and they are both classed as cardio workouts. Cardio is defined as any type of exercise that gets your heart rate up and keeps it up for a prolonged period of time.

In this article we will explain the benefits of both rowing and running and also explain the key differences in both of these cardio workouts.

How does rowing change your body?

Rowing is classed as a full body exercise. In terms of body shape, it helps strengthen your muscles, helps burn off calories and is very good for your overall cardiovascular fitness and endurance. It has been well proven that any cardiovascular activity is very good for heart health and helps reduce the risk of heart attack.

Rowing fully engages the muscle groups in your upper and lower body from the very first stroke. That helps initially to tone your muscles and then, when done over time, strengthens the muscles. Those muscle groups include the arms, shoulders, back, abdomen, and your legs. These will all gain a better shape and a great deal more strength.

Rowing regularly can also help people lose weight as it is very good at burning off calories. The number of calories you can burn will depend on the exact intensity of your rowing. Usually these intensities are classed as light, moderate and vigorous.

Just so as you have an idea, we have included a table below that shows what calories you can expect to lose for 15 minutes or rowing across the 3 intensities.

Your Weight (Kg)








































This assumes that you are using a rowing machine properly and avoiding the common mistakes of rowing. All rowing strokes should be made using mainly the legs and avoiding using only the arms. Maintaining an upright posture also helps the body shape and avoids damaging the back and shoulders.

It is also worth understanding that rowing is classed as a low impact exercise. That means that it's great for anyone who suffers from pains in their knees, legs or ankles. As you are seated the legs are not impacting on hard ground but are still getting a very good workout, without the bumps and bangs of running on a treadmill or the open road.

Rowing vs Running Comparison Table - Key Differences


  • It is a very good aerobic exercise so helps a lot with stamina, weight loss and improvements overall to the immune system.
  • It is a low impact exercise so you can avoid high impact exercises such as running, field sports, and rowing puts very little stress on your joints which helps reduce the risk of injuries.
  • Rowing is a great option for anyone who needs to strengthen and condition their knees after injury.
  • Rowing is good for both the upper and lower body. On the lower body it helps strengthen your quads, calves, and glutes. In the upper half it helps strengthen your pecs, abs, and biceps.


  • Running is also a good aerobic exercise so helps a lot with stamina, weight loss and improvements overall to the immune system.
  • Running either on a treadmill or on the road is classed as a high impact exercise and can have a major impact on your knees and ankles.  This is especially true over a longer period of time
  • Light jogging or walking can help people improve levels of fitness when recovering from some injuries
  • Running is really only a lower body work out in terms of muscle groups. It is also good for your cardio and endurance and as it is weight bearing does help improve bone density

As you can see from our comparison table above there are 2 main differences; rowing is low impact and running is high impact and rowing is ideal for anyone recovering from knee or ankle injuries whereas running is not the best choice.

How does running change your body?

There are of course different ways of running. This can be from a basic walk and all the way through to fast sprinting or long marathon style running. Each brings its own benefits to the human body. Walking is a good start for anyone wanting to get started on a fitness journey and also for people recovering from injuries.

Jogging is also a popular activity for may people in the UK and is good at working the cardio and for building strength and bone density in the lower half of the body. For those who prefer a higher intensity workout then sprinting over short distances is very good for that.

Those who want to have improve their cardio endurance prefer doing longer runs. Almost any distance over 5K is ideal for this type of a workout. Any type of running if persisted with will help burn calories and as such will help you lose weight.

A key advantage of running is that it is essentially free if you are able to run on the open road. If you prefer the privacy of doing that indoors, then you will likely benefit from using a treadmill. 

Should you row or should you run?

Both activities have their benefits. If you just want to pick one then we would recommend rowing. That is because it is low impact, good at working the whole body, good for losing weight and also very good for your cardio and endurance. The disadvantage of rowing is that unless you can get on the water you will have to buy a rowing machine. There is a cost to that, as for the most part running is of course free. ( A treadmill required for indoors)

Other Useful Rowing Information

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