Is Rowing Good For Weight Loss?

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Some people forget it exists but rowing can actually be a great workout. Find out if that means it is also good for weight loss and how it compares to other options.

To lose weight, you need to make it so your body requires more energy than is coming in from dietary sources.

You can say that rowing is good for weight loss in the sense that it helps you get to the point above. The rowing movements are more intense and burn more energy than typical daily activities.

In fact, rowing can actually be very good for burning calories compared to many other workout options. This is generally positive when trying to lose weight.

Another benefit of rowing is that it is relatively soft on your ankles and knees. That means the injury risk is generally lower than in something like running.

Something you do want to keep in mind is that you will have to go to a gym if you don’t have your own rowing machine.

This requires extra time and money compared to certain exercise options.

Can you lose weight just by rowing?

Many people wonder whether losing weight is so simple that you can achieve results by just rowing.

In some situations, this is the case. However, many people will have to make changes in other lifestyle areas to achieve their weight loss goals and avoid regaining the weight.

Losing weight requires you to get to a point where you are using up more energy than is coming in. In that case, you start using up energy stores like body fat.

So if you are currently at a weight loss plateau, just rowing can get you in the situation above and get you seeing results for a while.

As you lose more weight, your rowing workouts will start to use up less energy until you are back at a weight loss plateau.

When this happens you need to make more positive lifestyle changes again. That can mean a more intense rowing machine routine or changes in other areas like your diet.

man rowing for weight loss

How effective is rowing for weight loss vs alternatives?

From everything above, you can conclude that any form of exercise, not just rowing, can help you lose weight. And this is the case to some extent.

However, some workouts will be more effective than others. This is important because there are only so many hours in a day to spend on moving more.

To compare how effective rowing is for weight loss compared to alternatives, you can look at the estimations for how many calories each activity burns.

These predictions will often not be perfect but they do help you compare the workouts.

A 155-pound (70 kg) person will burn more or less the following amounts of calories when doing the activities for 30 minutes (1):

  • Rowing, Stationary (moderate): 252 calories
  • Rowing, Stationary (vigorous): 369 calories
  • Water Aerobics: 144 calories
  • Stretching (Hatha Yoga): 144 calories
  • Walking 4 mph: 175 calories
  • Stair Step Machine (general): 216 calories
  • Swimming (general): 216 calories
  • Bicycling, Stationary (moderate): 252 calories
  • Running 5 mph: 288 calories
  • Elliptical Trainer (general): 324 calories
  • Jumping rope (fast): 421 calories

As you can see, there are many details that can influence how many calories rowing burns. Besides intensity, you can also often adjust the resistance, etc.

That being said, it is fair to say that this type of exercise can be good for burning calories compared to many rowing machine alternatives.

In turn, you can also say that rowing is relatively good for losing weight.

Is walking or rowing better for weight loss?

Walking is another popular way to get implement more movement into a daily routine. You may wonder how this activity compares to rowing for weight loss.

From the calorie-burning estimations above, it should become clear that rowing is better than walking for weight loss in terms of the results you can get per minute.

On the other hand, there are differences between walking and rowing in other areas too.

For example, walking outside can offer you some extra sunlight, offer you some fresh air, and have a more calming effect.

If you don’t have your own rowing machine at home, walking could also be more time and budget-friendly.

So what exercise option is the best for your personal situation still depends on a few other details besides burning calories.

Is rowing good for losing belly fat?

Many people get the impression that losing belly fat requires you to do specific workouts like rowing.

Since this is often a side goal of losing weight, it is worth noting why this is not always the case.

More specifically, it is generally not possible to target fat loss in specific areas in significant amounts. To do this you have to lose enough weight overall.

In simpler words, rowing can be good for losing belly fat but your results will not necessarily only show up in this area.

Additionally, the same weight loss principles from above still apply.

How long should you be on a rowing machine to lose weight?

After finding out that rowing can be great for weight loss, many people are ready to put together their workout plans.

If you have specific goals, you can roughly estimate how long you should be on a rowing machine to lose the amount of weight you want.

One thing to note is that your actual results will depend a lot on details like your diet. The numbers below assume all the extra calories you burn come from body fat. This will not always be the case.

That being said, a 185-pound (84 kg) person will burn an extra 2058 calories or about 0.59 pounds (0.26 kg) of body fat by rowing 30 minutes a day for a week.

If this person would keep up the same rowing workout plan for 30 days, the result would be burning an extra 8820 calories or about 2.52 pounds (1.1 kg) of body fat.

Lastly, with the knowledge that one pound of body fat is about 3500 calories (one kg is about 8000 calories), you can calculate for yourself how long you should be on a rowing machine to lose weight.

What is wrong if you are rowing but not losing weight

It is possible to implement the sessions above or any other rowing workout plan but not lose any weight.

While there are exceptions, this will typically be because your habits in other lifestyle areas like nutrition are not good enough to start using your energy stores.

Additionally, remember that your body weight plays a big role in how many calories you burn with rowing.

Even if you are initially able to see results from rowing more often, your weight loss may slow down or stop after a while.

To see success again, you will have to make your rowing workouts more intense (but not too intense) and/or make positive changes in other areas.


Is 20 minutes of rowing enough?

20 minutes of vigorous rowing is enough to burn 246 calories and get in a nice cardiovascular workout. Whether this is enough to lose weight also depends on your habits in other areas.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.