Rowing vs Running(Comparison 101) Scientific Answer

rowing vs running

Rowing vs Running Rivalry

Rowing and treadmill are the best options for your cardiovascular exercise and boosting the fat loss process. Now the question arises which of these should you use to make the most out of it? This article will shed light on both the exercises rowing and running, which is more effective in which area. Rowing vs running has been a rivalry and we are going to give you a answer according to your goals. Although no specific exercise is better or standalone in facilitating fat loss or increasing cardiovascular benefits. These exercises show results when placed with dietary changes and following a proper exercise regime. End of the day, it is all about calories in and calories out to boost your fat loss goals.

What science says?

Based on scientific evidence, studies, and advice from trainers and health experts, we have broken down the two exercises on the basis of the following factors.

Cardiovascular impact

This is the most crucial factor in determining the efficacy of both of these exercises in terms of facilitating fat loss and promoting other benefits by increasing your cardiovascular capacity.

This study conducted among healthy recreationally active male subjects found results based on Vo2 Max factor which determines the efficiency of the oxygen uptake by the body during an exercise (More value means beneficial for cardiovascular health) and was performed both on a treadmill machine and an ergometry rowing machine, the results suggested that treadmill was significantly better in increasing cardiovascular output in subjects[1].

Heart rate

Heart rate and cardiovascular activity go hand-in-hand but are an essential factor in deciding whether or not to perform an exercise. Especially if your age is 45+ or you have heart disease. To our surprise, On the other hand, a study also measured the heart rate of subjects exercising on a treadmill and a rowing modality , and found out that the heart rate was lower for the rowing for the same exercise intensity[2].

Calories burned

The amount of calories burned is also very crucial when it comes to fat loss. One needs to keep those numbers increasing to progress his fat loss goals. In this situation, the treadmill will outshine rowing machine calorie burning ability  in a specific amount of time and at a particular intensity. So in this factor, the winner is the treadmill

Strength building

IF you are more focused towards building your strength and increase your muscular performance while losing calories, then hands down rowing is a better option for you. The treadmill will only work on your lower body legs, glutes, calves while rowing is a superb exercise and hits your upper and lower body. Muscles used in rowing including back, biceps, deltoids, legs, abdominals, and ultimately shaping your body , overall strength in all these muscles more than the treadmill or running and that too while losing calories and this is the reason CrossFit rows are one of the best exercises to build strength.

Another reason that rowing machine results outperforms treadmill results in terms of strength building is it works on some underrated or less worked up upon muscles. Like forearms, while pulling the rope with rowing handle, your abdominals, and erector spinae helps maintain your spine posture. If you have joint issues or arthritis, then rowing is light on your joints and tendons. In comparison to impact put on joints by running on a treadmill or, in general, read all benefits below.

rowing vs running


In the fight of rowing vs running we declare the overall winner is rowing, But do not neglect treadmill. Rowing is undoubtedly a better option in comparison to running due to the following justified reasons. Still, one should also not ignore the fact that treadmill will burn more calories. If you already are doing strength training exercises then the treadmill is a better option for you as it will individually work on burning those extra calories.

Rowing is better due to following reasons

1. Rowing is a low-impact method of aerobic exercise, where you can put significant volume without putting a strain on shins, knees, joints, Keep in mind your back might get stress which is typically a result of poor technique and/or adding more resistance in the machine by increasing the weight or the difficulty level of rowing intensity

2. It can be easier than running. You don’t have to worry about specific speed or difficulty level if you have a machine at home or the gym. Just sit on it and start rowing with a proper technique.

3. It is specifically a good cross-training exercise for the quadriceps and glutes. You drive the rowing stroke with your legs, but the “hip thrust” and the opening is fundamental, which is a jerk movement. If these are your weak areas or underdeveloped, then rowing may be an excellent way to develop them.

4. Rowing for fat loss-it can be a used to start things onto another level like HIIT or Tabata-type training , by including some other exercises clubbed with it can boost your calorie-burning rate and fat loss goals. High frequency and low to medium difficulty can be used to achieve almost equal levels of fat loss as running on a treadmill.

 Final Verdict

So looking at the above studies and data, we concluded that rowing might be a better option for you especially if you’re want to go easy on those joints, or you are elder and worry about your heart health, this exercise will also strengthen your overall body.

Rowing machine versus treadmill, which side are you on? Whichever you may choose in your exercise regime, as recommended by the Trainers and experts to lose weight/fat loss , one will need to increase their exercise duration timing more than 200 minutes per week, or a 50 min session 4 times a week is a more generalized sweet spot.

Daniel Kirk

Daniel Kirk

Daniel Kirk holds a Bachelor's degree in human body kinetics and a diploma in exercise physiology. He is also a certified Coach and owns a physical training centre. He also believes in sharing knowledge to the world and writes on topics related to anatomy and exercise approaches.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *