Sunday, October 29, 2017

Top 5 Health Benefits of Indoor Rowing

Rowing can be a great way to enjoy a total-body cardio workout. Whether you row for a local club, for leisure on the water, or indoor rowing in your home gym.

But what kind of health benefits can you expect? Is there any ‘perfect’ duration for your rowing workouts, and how does it compare to cycling?

  1. Full-body exercise
Due to the motion of a rowing stroke, rowing machines work all the major muscle groups. This includes your back, hamstrings, quads, shoulders, and biceps.

Rowing is also considered a low-impact exercise, compared to running. By not placing constant stress on your joints, you’ll be less likely to develop an injury.

  1. Burn more calories in a short time
If you only have a short amount of time to exercise, but want to burn the most calories, should you run, cycle, or row?

Frederick C. Hagerman, director of the Work Physiology Lab at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, found rowing burns 10 to 15 percent more calories than cycling. This is because rowing engages more upper body muscles than cycling, thereby burning more energy.

  1. Improves mobility
Rowing requires a large amount of movement, from the pushing with your legs during the stroke, to pulling the handle towards your body.

Even with pivoting footplates on indoor rowing machines, this means flexion in your ankles, knees, elbows, shoulders, hips, and lower back. It’s this motion that can improve mobility and flexibility, which can reduce the risk of injury during strength exercises, such as squats.

  1. Improves co-ordination
With any cardiovascular exercise, you tend to repeat the same basic motion throughout your workout. But a rowing stroke requires much more co-ordination than simply walking or indoor cycling.

This is something that takes practice. Maintaining the correct back position, knowing when to drive with your legs, pull with your back and biceps, and how far back to lean at the end of a stroke are all things to bear in mind.

But with an average stroke rate of 23 strokes per minute, you’re performing this rowing motion over 600 times in a 30-minute working. This gives you plenty of chances to perfect the motion through muscle co-ordination, which can carry over into other sports and daily activities.  

  1. Improves blood flow more than cycling?
Certain health conditions can affect the circulatory system, causing blood flow to decrease. In these situations, an increase in blood flow can benefit the heart and body, and alleviate poor circulation.

A study, published in Physiological Research, investigated whether rowing increased stroke volume (blood flow) and cardiac output more than cycling.

Ten healthy male volunteers participated in the study. Half of the participants completed rowing exercise, then 20 minutes of rest, followed by cycling exercise. The other half did cycling followed by rest and rowing.

The results of the study showed that rowing increased stroke volume and cardiac output to a greater extent than cycling. However, blood pressure and heart rate weren’t influenced by the type of exercise.

As you can tell from the list above, rowing can be a great way to stay in shape, whether you’re on the water or in your home gym.

But as with all exercise, moderation is important.

Research published in the BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation journal investigated injuries and illnesses in freshman rowers.

Participants in the study were novice rowers from 5 Dutch student rowing clubs (137 rowers, 63% men, 37% women). Duration and intensity of rowing were measured over a period of 7 months, in addition to injuries and illnesses.

By the end of the study, 28% of rowers had experienced health complaints (56% of these were injuries, 31% illnesses). The most common injury locations were knee (30%) and lower back (17%).

It’s important to mention that this was on-the-water rowing, not on indoor rowing machines. Most injuries were also towards the end of the rowing season, when the frequency and duration of training had peaked, together with the frequency of competitions.

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