Rowing Or Running – What’s The Better Cardio Exercise?

Rowing Or Running - What's The Better Cardio Exercise?

They say the key to staying fit is finding an exercise that you love so that it never feels like a challenge to work out.

If this is true, two of the best possible choices would be rowing and running, as they’re some of the most popular cardio workouts around loved by millions of people.

Rowing and running are both powerful forms of cardio and can get your heart pumping in a manner of minutes, but they vary quite a bit in what they offer.

If you’re looking for a new way to get your daily 30 minutes of exercise in and want to go with some tried and true methods, the rowing vs running debate would certainly be of interest to you.

What’s the better workout then, rowing or running?

In terms of calories burned, rowing burns around 158 calories in 30 minutes and running 181 calories in the same amount of time.

However, this isn’t the only category they should be judged in, with each offering pros and cons in effort, fun, accessibility, and impact on the body.

If you’re on the hunt for your new favorite cardio routine, these are the two to consider.

We’ll compare the advantages and disadvantages side by side and help you find the perfect fit for your lifestyle and physical needs so you can finally get into a workout that you truly enjoy. 

How Running and Rowing Differ

Running and rowing are popular ways to get a cardio workout and although they both do a good job of getting your heart rate rising, they differ quite a bit in how they work the body.

Running is the act of moving quickly on your feet, usually with both feet leaving the ground at the same time as you go.

Rowing can be done on either a rowing machine or in a rowing boat, and you’ll be in control of the oars and moving them through the water to propel the boat.

Both options offer an amazing cardio workout and all of the benefits you can expect from a thorough workout.

The biggest advantage that both of them have is they can be scaled to your fitness level so beginners and experts can get a workout that’s going to challenge and excited them. 

They’re easy enough to learn for newcomers and allow you to increase the intensity and time spent exercising as you progress, so it can always be adapted to your skill level and physical goals.

If you’re part of a gym or fitness club, you’ll find both treadmills and rowing machines readily available, and if doesn’t take much to master them and the various settings.

Rowing Machines and Treadmills

Rowing Machines And Treadmills

At your local gym, you’ve probably noticed that the treadmill is a more popular choice than the treadmill, with people preferring to either walk or run their way to fitness rather than using the full-body approach.

The machines work differently so getting an understanding of what they do can help you understand the exercise better.

A treadmill features a running deck that moves on a conveyor belt with the motor powering it up. As the belt moves, the user must walk or run to keep up with it, and the speeds can be adjusted according to how fast you want to move.

Newer models feature settings and training programs so you can go at a speed you choose or try interval training for a challenge. 

A rowing machine is designed to look and feel as though you are rowing a boat. You’ll sit in a seat that moves backward and forward as you pull on the handles, propelling you forward as if you were moving through the water.

These machines also offer different settings to make the workout more or less challenging and also offer interval training and other programs to follow.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Rowing

Choosing rowing as your preferred method of cardio comes with lots of benefits, but there are some drawbacks too. If you’re thinking about investing in a rowing machine but want to know if it’s right for you, consider these points:

The Benefits And Drawbacks Of Rowing


  • Rowing is a low impact workout ideal for people with injuries or who don’t like the intensity that running has on their joints. As you’re seated, you’ll have a more comfortable and smoother workout that doesn’t cause as much strain and no weight-bearing.
  • Rowing is both a strength and cardio workout that targets every area of your body. 


  • Rowing machines are expensive to own and buying a boat and finding somewhere in the water to row it is challenging. 
  • Mastering the rowing machine is harder to do and it requires more technique to work out properly. 

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Running

Rnning is one of the most beloved forms of fitness in the world and with good reason. Although there are loads of advantages to running there are some things to be aware of also, so check out the pros and cons of this popular workout.

The Benefits And Drawbacks Of Running


  • Running is a more targeted lower and middle body workout that can strengthen muscles as well as provide cardio. When you run, you activate your quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings most, where your biceps and abs also get a moderate workout.
  • Running burns more calories per 30 minutes than running, at around 180 calories for every half an hour you’re active.
  • You can enjoy running anywhere even if you don’t have a treadmill and there’s no gear required to do it other than a supportive pair of shoes.


  • Running can put a lot of pressure and strain on your joints, particularly your knees. It might not be an ideal exercise for everyone to do safely and can lead to long term problems. 
  • Running doesn’t offer a full-body workout like rowing so you may need to incorporate further strength training into your routine.

Choosing for Your Body Type

Exercise is a personal choice and deciding whether rowing or running is ideal for you will depend on many factors. Ask yourself these questions to give yourself a push in the right direction to a workout that will suit you best.

  • Do you have access to workout machines including a treadmill or rowing machine? If yes, you can choose either, but if not, you may be limited to running.
  • Do you have existing medical conditions that make high impact and weight-bearing exercises a problem? You may need to stick to rowing rather than putting a strain on your body with running.
  • How much money are you willing to spend on getting fit? If you want something free, running is the way to go, otherwise, you’ll have to pay for a gym membership or hire a rowing boat for the alternative.
  • Would you prefer a solely cardio workout or something that incorporates strength training as well? Rowing can offer a light strength workout and cardio whereas running is mainly cardio-focused. 
  • How much experience do you have with exercise? Either option is ideal for beginners and fitness fanatics so everyone can succeed with them.

Related Questions

Choosing a cardio workout that suits your physical requirements is important, but so too is finding one that you enjoy.

If you have plans to get fit or want to try a new workout, running and rowing are some of the best options out there. We’ve got the answers to some commonly asked questions about the two types of exercises to make your decision easier.

Both rowing and running engage your core as you work out but neither can target belly fat specifically. To slim down and lose inches from your body, an all-over workout combined with a healthy eating plan is the most effective way.

As you lose weight, you’ll gradually lose the excess fat from your stomach and other areas of the body where it’s found.

If you’re only able to fit 15 minutes of exercise in a day, it’s better than doing nothing, however, recommendations state that 150 minutes a week is ideal.

This can be done with one type of exercise or using a combination of workouts, so you can incorporate both running and rowing into your weekly routine to reach your cardio goal.

Rowers who are used to this activity may switch to running if they want something different or are experiencing upper-body injuries and need time to recover.

As running is mainly focused on the lower and mid-body areas, you’ll still be able to work out without putting a strain on the upper body.

Rate this post