Rowing Machine vs Treadmill For Weight Loss — 3 Advantages

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Rowing Machine vs Treadmill For Weight Loss

Rowing machines and treadmills are two popular gym equipment used for weight loss. The goal of weight loss is to reduce body fat percentage and increase lean muscle mass. Both machines offer a cardiovascular workout that helps burn calories, but the question is, which machine is better for weight loss?

If you are trying to decide between a rowing machine vs treadmill for weight loss, it’s important to consider your goals and preferences before making a decision. Let’s explore how rowing machines and treadmills compare and examine the advantages of each to assist you in making a decision on which option is best suited for your weight loss needs.

Rowing Machine

Rowing machines have become increasingly popular in recent years thanks to their ability to provide a full-body workout. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using a rowing machine for weight loss.


1. Full Body Workout

Rowing machines engage all major muscle groups, including the upper body, core, and lower body. This means that rowing machines offer a complete workout that can help you lose weight and build muscle at the same time.

2. Low Impact

Unlike running or jumping, rowing machines offer a low-impact workout that is easier on your joints. This is especially beneficial for individuals with joint pain or those who are recovering from an injury.

3. High-Calorie Burn

Rowing as a cardio machine can burn a significant number of calories. According to a Harvard Medical publication, a person who weighs 125 pounds can burn approximately 210 calories in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity rowing on a stationary rowing machine, while a person who weighs 185 pounds can burn approximately 294 calories in the same duration and intensity1. This makes rowing machines a great choice for those looking to lose weight.


1. Limited Variety

Rowing machines offer limited variety when it comes to workouts. Once you get the hang of the machine, there isn’t much you can do to mix up your workout routine.

2. Technique

Proper technique is of utmost importance when using a rowing machine, not only to prevent injury but also to maximize the benefits of your workout. Using incorrect form can place unnecessary stress on the joints and muscles, leading to strains, sprains, and other injuries, and may also compromise the efficiency of the exercise, as it may not be targeting the intended muscle groups.


Treadmills have been a staple of cardio workouts for decades. They are easy to use and provide a great way to burn calories. However, they also have some drawbacks. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of using a treadmill for weight loss.


1. High Intensity

Running or sprinting on a treadmill can burn more calories per minute than rowing machines. This makes treadmills a great choice for high-intensity workouts. High-intensity workouts are a great way to boost cardiovascular fitness and burn calories in a short amount of time, and treadmills provide a convenient and efficient way to achieve this type of workout without the need for additional equipment or space.

2. Variety

Treadmills offer a wide range of workout options that cater to the diverse needs and preferences of individuals, making them a versatile fitness tool. In addition to incline and interval training, treadmills also provide various other options, such as hill climbing, heart rate training, and even virtual reality simulations, offering you an immersive and engaging workout experience that can help you stay motivated and committed to your fitness goals.

3. Convenience

Treadmills are not only easy to use, but they also offer a convenient and accessible option for individuals looking to incorporate cardio into their fitness routine. With their widespread availability in most gyms and fitness centers, you can easily access and utilize treadmills as a part of your workout regimen.


1. Limited Full-Body Workout

Treadmills mainly target the lower body, with little engagement of the upper body muscles. This can result in a lower calorie burn compared to rowing machines that provide a full-body workout.

2. Impact

Running or walking on a treadmill can put stress on your knees and ankles. This can be a problem for people with joint pain or those who are recovering from an injury.

3. Risk of Injury

Treadmills can be risky if not used properly. Running at high speeds or on an incline can increase the risk of falls or other injuries. You should always use caution and follow safety guidelines when using a treadmill.

Managing Weight Loss Expectations

Losing weight is a common goal for many people, and both rowing machines and treadmills can be effective tools in achieving weight loss. However, the amount of weight you can lose on either machine can vary depending on various factors, including the intensity and duration of your workout, your diet, and your overall fitness level.

When it comes to weight loss, the number of calories you burn during a workout is a crucial factor. The good news is that both rowing machines and treadmills can provide an excellent calorie-burning workout. However, the number of calories burned can vary depending on your body weight and the intensity of your workout.

On average, a person weighing 155 pounds can burn about 260 calories in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity rowing on a rowing machine. In comparison, the same person can burn around 260 calories in 30 minutes of jogging at a moderate pace on a treadmill. This suggests that the two machines are equally effective when it comes to burning calories.

However, since rowing machines can offer a full-body workout, it engages multiple muscle groups, including the legs, core, arms, and back. This means that rowing machines can burn more calories in less time than a treadmill. For instance, a high-intensity rowing workout for 20-30 minutes can burn up to 400-500 calories.

If you’re looking to lose weight, it’s important to combine regular exercise with a healthy diet. No amount of exercise can compensate for a poor diet, and consuming more calories than you burn will result in weight gain, regardless of the type of exercise you do. Therefore, it’s important to focus on a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats.

Rowing Machine vs Treadmill For Weight Loss: Which is Better?

The answer to this question depends on your goals and preferences. Both machines offer benefits and drawbacks, and choosing the right machine depends on what you are looking for in your workout.

If you are looking for a low-impact workout that engages all major muscle groups, a rowing machine may be a better option. If you want to focus on cardio training and burn a high number of calories, a treadmill may be the better choice.

However, it’s worth noting that a rowing machine can still provide a high-intensity cardio workout. According to a study, rowing machines are a viable alternative to treadmills for improving cardiovascular fitness2.

Furthermore, both machines can help you lose weight when used correctly. A study found that both rowing machines and treadmills can lead to significant weight loss when used in conjunction with a calorie-restricted diet3.

One factor to consider when comparing either a treadmill or rowing machine for weight loss is the muscle groups they target. Rowing machines engage both the upper and lower body muscles, making them ideal for toning and building muscle while burning calories. In contrast, treadmills primarily engage the lower body muscles, making them less effective at toning the upper body.

Another important consideration is the impact on joints. Rowing machines offer a low-impact workout that is easier on the joints than running on a treadmill. This can be particularly advantageous for people who experience joint discomfort or are in the process of recuperating from an injury.

Lastly, it’s important to consider your user experience and enjoyment when choosing a machine. If you enjoy using a particular machine, you are more likely to stick to your workout routine and achieve your weight loss goals.

Final Thoughts

Rowing machines and treadmills both offer effective cardio workouts that can help you lose weight. While both machines have their advantages and disadvantages, the best choice depends on your goals and preferences.

For individuals who want to engage all major muscle groups and prefer a low-impact workout, a rowing machine may be the better choice. In contrast, for those who want to focus on cardio training and burn a high number of calories, a treadmill may be more suitable.

Regardless of the machine chosen, it’s important to use proper technique and follow safety guidelines to avoid injury. With consistent use and a calorie-restricted diet, both a treadmill and rowing machine can lead to significant weight loss and improved cardiovascular fitness.


1 Harvard Health. (2021, March 8). Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-for-people-of-three-different-weights

2 Buckley JP, Davis JA, Simpson T. Cardio-respiratory responses to rowing ergometry and treadmill exercise soon after myocardial infarction. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999 Dec;31(12):1721-6. doi: 10.1097/00005768-199912000-00006. PMID: 10613421.

3 Collins KA, Ross LM, Piner LW, et alAmount and intensity effects of exercise training alone versus a combined diet and exercise lifestyle intervention on health-related quality of life in the STRRIDE-PD randomized trialBMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care 2022;10:e002584. doi: 10.1136/bmjdrc-2021-002584


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