7 Benefits of Rowing for 50+
7 Benefits of Rowing for 50+
By Sam Watson, Functional Training Specialist
Babyboomers.com Staff

Once we surpass the fifty milestone, we all begin to decline physically. Our metabolism slows down, we produce less testosterone and our rates of muscle and bone atrophy increase. It’s a stark reality, but not an irreversible one. With smart nutrition and the right sort of exercise, you can offset many of the physical consequences of aging.

So, what’s the right sort of exercise?

In this article, we lay out 7 compelling reasons to choose rowing as the exercise of choice for people over the age of 50.

Rowing Works the Entire Body

Rowing is quite unique in that, while it is primarily a cardiovascular exercise, it also works most of the major muscles of your body. This is in contrast to most forms of cardio exercise which tend to focus on the muscles of the lower body.

The primary muscles involved in the rowing action are the quadriceps, glutes, upper and lower back, shoulders, biceps, and core. The improvement in the core, shoulder, and upper back strength that results can help seniors to improve their posture and reduce the risk of falls. The strengthening of the erector spinae muscles of the lower back can also help to relieve lower back pain.

Rowing Improves Cardiovascular Fitness

Rowing provides a challenging aerobic workout that strengthens the heart and lungs to allow for a more efficient cardiovascular system. People over the age of 50 are able to gradually improve their cardio fitness as they increase the length and intensity of their workout at their level.

Improving the efficiency of your cardiovascular system will allow for faster transportation of blood to your body’s cells. This increases the supply of nutrients and oxygen to your muscles, improving your energy, endurance, and strength levels. As a result, you will more readily be able to meet everyday challenges, such as running for a bus or changing a tire.

People who have elevated blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol levels, and a high resting pulse rate will be able to bring all of these markers down when they take up the rowing habit.

Rowing is Low Impact

One of the effects of aging is a gradual loss of bone density. This can lead to joint weakness and such conditions as osteoporosis and arthritis. As a result, people over the age of 50 need to be very selective in their choice of cardio exercise, avoiding those that place undue impact on the joints.

Rowing is an excellent choice in this regard. It is a closed chain exercise where your feet never lose contact with the machine. That means that there is no impact jarring during the exercise. Your body moves through a fluid, natural motion that is completely impact-free. Compare this to running on a treadmill where you are placing impact stress on your ankle, knee and hip joints with every footfall.

In addition to not making your joints worse, there is research to suggest that rowing can actually make them better. A 2014 study revealed that people who followed a rowing machine exercise program for 8 weeks improved their joint torque ability by 30 percent.

Rowing is Suitable for All Fitness Levels

Rowing is an exercise that puts you in charge. The intensity of the exercise is determined by the speed of your rowing pull. You are in a completely naturally seated position that allows you to move your legs, torso, and arms through a full range of motion.

Whether you are a new exerciser with a low fitness level or a superfit triathlete, the rowing machine will provide you with a workout that is challenging - and safe - at your level.

Rowing Helps Lose Body Fat

As we age our metabolism slows down. One consequence of that for many people is that they gain weight. Rowing is an effective calorie burner, providing a low-impact way to combat age-related weight gain.

Because it involves the muscles of your entire body, rowing requires more energy than many other forms of cardio exercise. Depending on your weight, age, and the intensity of your workout, you can burn between 500 and 700 calories per hour. If you combine that with a daily reduction of around 500 calories in your diet, you will lose stored body fat.

Rowing Strengthens the Core

The muscles of your core - the abdominals, the obliques, intercostals, and erector spinae - form the power base of your body. When your core is strong, you have a much greater ability to produce power through both the upper and lower body. It also improves your balance, proprioception, and coordination.

With falls being the leading cause of injury among people over the age of 65, the ability to improve your balance and coordination is crucial. People who keep their core, glutes, and quads strong and supple through rowing exercise are more likely to be able to self-correct when they get off balance. That ability can make the difference between a fractured or broken limb and a split-second rebalance.

Rowing is Meditative

Many people find the smooth, fluid action of rowing to be extremely calming and meditative. It allows them to relax and free up the mind, acting as a form of mindful meditation. I personally find that a 20-minute rowing session early in the morning allows me to clear my mind for the day ahead. At the same time, it infuses feel-good hormones into my bloodstream to make me feel extremely positive.


Rowing is, without a doubt, a fantastic choice of exercise for people over the age of 50. Investing in a rowing machine for your home is a smart investment that will help you to counter the natural effects of aging as you become a fitter, stronger, and more supple version of yourself.


About the Author

Sam Watson is a functional training specialist and writer for startrowing.com. She has a passion for all forms of exercise and loves being able to help others move more freely.

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