Is Rowing Low Impact?

Mike Dostal

If you are looking to increase your current fitness level, get back into a workout routine, find alternative cross-training exercises, or avoid an injury, finding a low-impact workout you enjoy may be one of the most important decisions you can make. Common workouts like running can cause joint pain over time through repetitive impact, so replacing these more impactful movements can help with injury prevention, conditioning, and recovery. 

As you research the different types of low-impact workouts out there, you may be wondering, “Is rowing low impact?” and whether it’s right for you. Great news! Rowing machines in particular offer a fantastic low-impact workout, as they can help you increase your cardiovascular fitness, burn fat, and increase your strength without putting undue stress on your joints.

Let’s jump in and take a look at:

Is a rowing machine low impact?

Yes! Rowing provides a great full-body exercise and effective strength and endurance activity, as it uses your legs, core, and arms in every stroke. In fact, rowing uses a whopping 86% of your muscles, all in a motion that is low-impact. 

When using proper form, the rowing stroke starts by using your legs to launch the stroke. Then, you smoothly bring your core into the stroke and finish the rowing stroke by adding your arms. 

Because you are seated on your indoor rower, your joints are not under the repetitive high-impact load that you’d experience during running-based activities. Additionally, the motions you go through in rowing are very smooth, rhythmical actions that do not jar or provide high-impact loads to your joints. 

The benefits of low-impact rowing workouts

Rowing machine workouts offer a variety of benefits for those looking for a low-impact form of exercise to incorporate into their fitness routine, including more consistent workouts and great cardio exercise

More consistent workouts

The low-impact nature of rowing means that you can work out consistently and come back to row more frequently than you may be able to with high-impact workouts. This is because lower-impact workouts reduce the likelihood of experiencing an injury due to repetitive motion. 

This allows you to progress with your fitness more consistently and in a quicker, safer way. You won’t have to miss as many days due to the muscle soreness or joint pain that can come with high-impact workouts.

A great cardio workout

The physical benefits of rowing also extend way beyond the unique benefits of low-impact workouts. As we mentioned, rowing uses multiple muscle groups across your upper body and lower body, meaning you’ll engage a larger volume of muscle mass during rowing. Because of this, your heart rate and VO2 (the amount of oxygen used during exercise) will be higher, giving you a more intense cardio fitness benefit. 

Completing a full-body workout also means you will burn more calories in the same time spent exercising, so if one of your fitness goals is burning fat, a low-impact workout like rowing may be for you. 

Why low-impact rowing workouts could be good for you

Low-impact workouts are great for almost everyone but can be even more beneficial depending on certain factors, including your age, your current fitness level, your potential injuries, and your desire to cross-train. 

Let’s take a look at some of those specific benefits in a little more detail to see whether they mean low-impact rowing workouts could be good for you: 

  • Your age: As we age, we have a few more miles on the clock (or on the joints). There is good reason to continue to exercise for all the physical and mental benefits it offers, but it can help to replace some (or all!) of those workouts with a low-impact activity to help reduce stress on your joints over time. 

  • Your current fitness level: Great fitness habits usually come when you engage in the right variety of workouts consistently over time. These habits can also be the same ones that can lead to overuse injuries if not carefully managed. 

  • Your potential injuries: A low-impact rowing workout also has the benefit of reducing the possibility of developing (or worsening) any injuries that come from more high-impact activities. 

  • Desire to cross-train: Rowing can also be used as a cross-training tool to provide a different positive stimulus to your training or if you have an injury that limits you.

Is rowing a low-impact exercise? Final thoughts. 

Rowing is one of the best low-impact workouts because it provides a movement that is smooth and rhythmic. Because you are in a seated position, your body weight is not impacting joints that are typically affected in running-based workouts.

As you consider the full-body exercise offered by rowing, it’s easy to see why it’s one of the best workouts available to get a great bang for your buck — without injuring yourself in the process. 

If you are looking to invest in a rowing machine for your home, be sure to check out Hydrow. Our state-of-the-art rowing machines are the perfect addition to any home gym, giving you an immersive and total-body workout in just 20 minutes a day. 

Hydrow’s extensive library of workout content is led by our team of world-class and Olympic Athletes and filmed in stunning locations around the world. Whether you’re looking to do a rowing workout or cross-train with yoga, Pilates, and circuit training, you’ll be transported to stunning global destinations that keep you motivated to come back again and again. 

Mike Dostal

An England native, Mike grew up rowing as a kid. Mike has no shortage of rowing accomplishments, from winning the British National Championship, to racing for Great Britain, to placing in the U.S. National Championship. His enthusiasm lies in his desire to share his love of exercise, and that comes through in his tough but lighthearted rows.