Runners will tell you to run and Rowers to row…. but comparing rowing vs running is more subtle than that. Today I’m going to stack them up head to head and see who comes out on top. This will help you to choose between a treadmill and a rowing machine for your home fitness needs.
Read on to learn more about the benefits of each, which burns more calories, what muscles are targeted. You will also find out about the costs of budget and mid-range equipment for each activity.
In general running will be more intensive than rowing and therefore you will burn more calories when running as opposed to rowing.
The number of calories burned depend on the intensity level (and many other factors, including your size). Here are the ranges;
Running on a Treadmill: from 500 Calories per hour (light) to 1100 / hour (intensive).
On a Rowing Machine: from 400 Calories per hour (light) to 600 / hour for intensive.
However this is a little misleading, as with most things in fitness it depends on your goals. If you want to lose weight then burning as many calories as possible is key. If you are looking to develop your endurance, get a full body workout or take care of your body then rowing has many benefits over running.
Overall, on calories burned alone, running will do better per hour.
In terms of what muscles are worked then rowing is the clear winner. Running predominantly works the lower body. Quads, hamstrings, glutes etc. Yes you will strengthen your core and abs a little if you have the correct posture. It is essentially a lower body workout.
Rowing on the other hand works your arms, chest and back as well as your legs. Probably only swimming will target more muscles than rowing.
Note that you should consider additional code exercises, whichever format you pick. You can find more on some innovative abs and core fitness equipment on this linked page.
It should come as no surprise that both of these exercises have a whole host of cardio benefits. Both will improve your overall cardiovascular health, build up your endurance and help you maintain your weight.
However rowing edges it here for me simply because it is much easier on your body. At first glance the fact it is less intensive may seem like a bad thing. In reality though, this is a benefit of rowing.
First off it is much easier on your joints. Running on a treadmill puts a lot of stress on your ankles, hips and knees. There are many injuries that are commonplace for regular runners. Rowing on the other hand, if done correctly, is very gentle on the body whilst still offering great cardio benefits.
Again, things are never black and white – a mid-range treadmill with cushioned running surface and some decent running shoes will absorb most of the impacts.
This is a tricky one, both of these exercises can be performed indoors and out. If you have a gym membership you will no doubt have easy access to both a decent rowing machine as well as a treadmill.
For many of us, the convenience of exercising at home wins out – and both treadmills and rowing machines are accessible to most budgets.
I do recommend you research this topic properly. Some of the budget ‘knock off’ brands are small, rattle and are generally bad quality. A budget treadmill starts at around £150. For this price you can get a sturdy enough beginner model with electronic console and a decent top speed (aim for 12km / hour+ as this adds to the flexibility of the routines you can do). Rowing machines are a little more, though for £200 you can get an excellent machine from a trusted manufacturer.
Keep in mind that both machines can be used by the whole family. You’ll also get long term value by picking a quality machine which will last you years.
Here are two machines which I recommend for beginners. These are what I’d call ‘Budget plus’, not quite mid-range prices, though with decent build quality and a solid spec.
Sportstech are huge in their native Germany. Their quality, engineering and tech-compatibility are all excellent. The F10 is their starter treadmill. It includes incline, a shock-absorbing running surface and a big console. App compatibility is a big selling point. You can connect with your own tablet / iPad or phone – and take part in group training or coaching programs.
If you have come across Sportstech gear before, then the hugely positive feedback will not come as any surprise. Even the fussy German buyers were super-pleased with their treadmills!
Check out the picture gallery, which includes plenty of close-ups and explanations of the features, and read the latest feedback for yourself now over on this dedicated amazon.co.uk product page: Check out this dedicated amazon.co.uk product page for more.
JLL have become a personal go-to for me. Not only do they create excellent home fitness equipment, the service from this UK-based brand sets a super-high standard. Their entry-level R200 rowing machine is hugely popular. This has magnetic resistance, folds away and has a monitor that tracks the key metrics (including calories burned).
JLL produce top quality kit, without the premium pricing. Check out this dedicated amazon.co.uk product page and see the gallery and feedback for yourself now!
R200 Rowing machine
The R200 Rowing Machine is our elite performance home rower. It’s packed with premium features which allows you to train like a pro and sculpt your body.
Both of these are great ways to kick off your fitness regime and I think I would be doing you a disservice if I recommended you do one over the other.
If you pick what you enjoy the most, you’ll train more often, and get better benefits in the long term. If you choose an activity you dislike, because it burns more calories or works a specific muscle – then you’ll tend to drop out sooner. As with the majority of exercises, these two complement each other nicely. So, if you are a runner, give your joints a rest every now and then and do some rowing. Likewise if you are a rower then give your back a rest and do some running.
Here are links to the reviews of my recs, if you prefer to browse the many different options, or explore other ideas for getting started with home fitness equipment, then you’ll find links for those pages below too.