Rowing is a type of workout that is often done on an indoor machine. There are a variety of interesting statistics and facts about this sport.
The real type of rowing involves moving a boat forward with the help of oars. Rowing machines are made to simulate this form of exercise in a more convenient and comfortable way.
Below you can find some of the most popular findings and statistics about rowing and rowing machines and where this data comes from.
Keep in mind that the figures below are often estimations from smaller studies, data sets, and surveys. These things generally come with a lot of biases, suboptimal sample selection, and measurement errors.
In reality, some numbers will likely vary for the overall population, sometimes by a lot. When it comes to records, keep in mind that comparing yourself to your time of yesterday is generally more productive.
1. What daily rowing time is recommended
At the time of writing the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends the following exercise guidelines to adults (1):
- Moving more and sitting less throughout the day
- At least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity a week. Preferably spread throughout the week.
- You can gain additional health benefits by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.
- Muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity and that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
The CDC defines moderate-intensity exercise as any form of movement where you are able to talk but not sing. They define vigorous intensity as not being able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath (2).
So when it comes to fulfilling the cardio guidelines, you could go for 225 minutes of moderate-intensity rowing and 125 minutes of vigorous-intensity rowing a week.
Spread out over 7 days this would come down to about 32 minutes of moderate-intensity rowing and 18 minutes of vigorous-intensity rowing a day. Do not forget to add muscle-strengthening activities on top of that.
Something to keep in mind is that these statistics are very rough general recommendations. Also, if this is literally the only movement you do and sit the rest of the day your amount of exercise may still be rather lacking for certain goals.
2. Rowing best times
In water rowing the term “world record” tends to be avoided since water and weather conditions can have a big impact on these times. Instead the words “best times” are used.
These are the best times on a 2000 meter (1.24 miles) course that satisfies the selection criteria. Some examples of the current best rowing times include (3):
- Single sculls men: 6:30.74 by Robert Manson
- Single sculls women: 7:07.71 by Rumyana Neykova
- Double sculls men: 5:59.72 by Valent Sinkovic and Martin Sinkovic
- Double sculls women: 6:37.31 by Sally Kehoe and Olympia Aldersey
Many rowing enthusiasts are also interested in the world records of indoor rowing distances.
Concept2, a company that offers one of the most popular rowing machines keeps track of a wide variety of indoor rowing world records with their machine. You can filter these records by time, distance, gender, weight category, and age range.
For example, at the time of writing the world record for rowing 2000 m (1.24 miles) indoors is 5:35.8 achieved by Josh Dunkley-Smith in 2018.
3. Average rowing times 500m
Finding the average rowing times of all individuals on all different types of rowing machines or boats is relatively challenging. Luckily, Concept2 again offers a large database of the performances of their members.
At log.concept2.com/rankings you can find the rankings for different distances, times, seasons, age ranges, etc. This page also offers the average time or distance for the selected event.
For example, the 2021 season 500m RowErg Rankings give an average time of 1:53.7 from 10152 people (4). This is for all weights, all genders, all ages, etc.
Additionally, these rankings offer percentiles, the times a certain % of the people were able to achieve. In the same rankings, 50% of the people were able to achieve a time of 1:46.5 for the 500m.
You can also see the statistics for the 90th, 75th, and 25th percentiles.
4. Different types of rowing resistance
All rowing machines simulate more or less the same movements. However, the way rowing machines offer resistance to this movement varies.
You can divide rowing machines into the following 4 main types of resistance:
- Magnetic rowing machines: Resistance in these machines is created by magnets passing each other. These are generally silent and easily adjustable.
- Air rowing machines: Rowing machines with a fan turning against air resistance. Generally a bit louder but many people love the feeling this type of resistance offers.
- Water rowing machines: These have a water container with paddles turning against water for resistance. Many people love the feeling and soothing sound. Adjusting resistance tends to be a bit less practical.
- Hydraulic rowing machines: Use hydraulic tubes to add resistance. Cheap but generally more for beginners. These are generally not suited for long and heavy workouts.
What type is the best for you depends on things like personal preference, budget, storage room, the sound you can tolerate, your workout plan, etc.
5. Rowing offers many health benefits
While enjoyment is also often a reason, many people use the rowing machine because of all the health benefits it offers. This goes from a healthier cardiovascular system to stronger bones to improved cognitive function, etc.
Another popular reason is that using a rowing machine can help you lose weight.
30 minutes of rowing with a medium load (100 W) can help you burn around 207-356+ calories depending on weight, intensity, and much more.
If you want to learn how to burn more calories while rowing and in general, make sure you read the article on how many calories rowing burns.
6. Rowing vs other exercises
MET-values are numbers to estimate how intense a workout is. These numbers are then used to estimate things like calories burned. You can also use these MET-values to estimate how intense rowing is vs other workouts.
As an example, you can find how long you would have to do the exercises below to get in a workout of about the same intensity as 30 minutes of medium-load (100W) rowing (5).
- Rowing (very vigorous effort, 200W): 17.5 minutes
- Running 5.2 mph (8.4 km/h): 23.3 minutes
- Bicycling 12-13.9 mph (19.3-22.4 km/h): 26.25 minutes
- Elliptical trainer (moderate effort): 42 minutes
- Stair-treadmill (general): 23.3 minutes
- Rope skipping (general): 17.1 minutes
- Swimming breaststroke (general training): 20.4 minutes
Two things become clear from these stats. First of all, rowing intensity will make a big difference. Secondly, rowing alternatives can also offer great workouts.
7. Rowing machine popularity
Rowing machines are a relatively popular type of fitness equipment. Most gyms have them and on top of that many people invest in their own rowing machine so they can row in the comfort of their own homes.
One source concludes from surveys with 30,999 respondents from 2006-2017 that about 11.7 million people in the United States used a rowing machine in 2017 (6).
Google Trends is a tool that shows you how much interest in certain search terms evolves over time for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular.
Below you can find a worldwide search volume comparison from 2004-2021 between “rowing machine”, “treadmill”, “exercise bike”, “elliptical”, and “stairmaster”.
While rowing machines are definitely popular on their own, as you can see some of the other cardio equipment options are even more popular.
On January the 15th, 2022 we even conducted a quick 24-hour poll on our own Instagram page with the question “Have you used a rowing machine in the last 4 weeks?” that could be answered with “Yes” or “No”.
81 people responded to this poll. 9.9% of these people answered yes, 90.1% of these people answered no.
8. How far is 1,000 strokes on a rowing machine?
This next statistic is more focused on the rowing machine. Especially more experienced rowers will be able to tell you that there is no single answer to this question.
Not all strokes are the same. For both water rowing and machine rowing, you can generate different types of momentum with one stroke. Additionally, there are different rowing machine resistance settings available.
A very rough estimation is around 8-12 meters per stroke and thus 1000 strokes would come down to between 8km – 12km (5 – 7.5 miles). Again, this is an extremely rough average.
Rowing machines with somewhat advanced tracking generally give you numbers like distance rowed and how many strokes you did. With these numbers, you can also calculate how far 1000 strokes were during your rowing session.
9. Rowing machine weight limits
We looked at 65 example models and calculated that the average rowing machine weight limit of these machines was 306.86 pounds (139.16 kg).
Other cardio machines like treadmills and exercise bikes tend to have higher weight limits but the differences are not that big.
Rowing machines do tend to have the highest outliers. One model we found even had a user weight limit of 992.08 pounds (449.92 kg).
Higher weight limits can be helpful both for users who are carrying around a few extra pounds and just to indicate overall sturdiness.
Knowing the average rowing machine weight limit is great but do make sure you check the weight limit of the individual model you intend to use.
10. Rowing machine weights
Another rowing machine statistic we investigated was the average weight of these rowing machines.
With the data from 60 different models, we calculated that the average weight of a rowing machine was 65.21 pounds (29.57 kg). The median weight of these same rowing machines was 61.37 pounds (27.83 kg).
The weight of a rowing machine is generally not as important as other stats like a user weight limit or the dimensions.
However, for some situations like a weak floor, you do want to know this number before investing in a machine. Additionally, the weight does indicate to some extent how much material went into the machine.