03/08/2012 12:41

The health benefits of rowing

Bradley Wiggins' multiple successes have already seen a surge of interest in cycling, and experts are predicting that the medal-winning efforts of Heather Stanning and Helen Glover will have the same effect on rowing. We've got the low-down on what might just be the sporting world's next big thing.

Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hosking rowing (© PA)

Why weight?
If your goal is weight loss, rowing might be the sport for you. "Depending on the intensity of the rowing, you can burn anything between 400 and 1,000 calories an hour," points out Pippa Randolph at www.britishrowing.org. "The only exercise which burns more calories in an equivalent session is cross-country skiing. Half an hour's rowing is more effective than half an hour cycling, running or swimming."

Olympic interest
Unsurprisingly, the gold medals won by Heather Stanning and Helen Glover resulted in a surge of interest. "Over 5,500 people used the search facility on www.britishrowing.org to find their nearest rowing club yesterday, far exceeding the highest figure recorded during the Beijing Games," reveals Simon Dickie, youth and community manager at British Rowing. "Within 10 minutes of the gold medal our clubs were receiving applications for 'learn to row' courses."

Why rowing's for everyone
The low impact nature of rowing means that it's also ideal for those who might struggle with other sports. "Because it's low impact, people can start at an older age - many people in their 60s and older take to the sport, row regularly and even compete into their 80s," reveals Pippa. "It's low impact because you're exercising sitting down and the strength element helps to tone."

Clubbing together
Part of the reason for this is the sport's accessibility. "Rowing is a truly inclusive sport, so trying it out is as simple as getting in contact with your nearest rowing club," points out rower Alex Skelton at www.concept2.co.uk, a company which designs rowing machines. "Almost all rowing clubs run open days and novice sessions. To find the list of clubs in the UK visit www.britishrowing.org/taking-part, which has a handy postcode finder."

Out with elitism
Many hope that by becoming more popular, rowing will shed its image as an elite sport. "Rowing in the UK has traditionally been thought of as an elitist, public school sport," says Alex Skelton. "Sir Steve Redgrave did a great job of changing that perception and making it more accessible to people who didn't go to public school. The popularity of rowing is on the rise, so now is the perfect time to try it out."

Wallet-friendly fun
Taking up rowing won't break the bank, either. "Rowing club membership usually costs around £40 a month," says Alex Skelton. "For that you get access to coaching, use of a boat and some gym facilities. You can also rent a rowing machine from just £35 a month, and this is a great way of trying the sport out."

A different point of view
Another advantage is that it's a great way to get a different perspective on the area where you live. "Being on the water gives you a unique vantage point on your local area," says Rich Stock, Explore Rowing manager at British Rowing. "Rowing is a great way to explore the waterways and spot things you can only see from the water."

Grass roots goodness
Perhaps the best thing about rowing is the sense of community which exists between rowing clubs. What's more, it's one of the few sports which hasn't been tainted by the type of scandal which often affects other disciplines. "Rowing is a British-invented sport that is practised predominantly at grass roots level," explains George McIntosh, President of the University of Essex Rowing Club. "There is a vibrant rowing community which has remained very much unspoiled by the media attention, scandal and corporations that surround many other sports."

Rowing rewards
Finally, Jack Stonehouse, a world record holder for rowing the Atlantic Ocean, believes rowing is a sport which offers huge rewards, but he also points out that a certain amount of stamina is required. "Stick at it - it's a lot harder than it looks," says Jack. "But with perseverance it comes, and is remarkably rewarding when it does. Good technique can more than compensate for not being the biggest, strongest member of a crew."

In the meantime, there's plenty more Olympic rowing coming up if you've already caught the bug, although the remaining events will all take place today and on Saturday. The disciplines include the men's four, the men's lightweight double sculls, the women's single sculls and the women's lightweight double sculls. After that, we've got a four-year wait until the Rio Olympics. And who knows, in 2016, it could be you going for rowing gold in Brazil!

Visit www.britishrowing.org for more information.


The article is correct, 'rowing' is definitely the physical activity to keep one fit & toned.


It excercises all the muscles,keeping them toned,it's also excellent for the circulation of blood & the lymphatic system,which,when you are aging,has particular benefits..

The benefits for one's waistline,leg,arm, neck muscles are real benefits,as is the increased lung activity.


All in,this activity really takes some beating,I know this,because,when I was in my 20's,I used to do a lot of it when rowing skiffs & other small boats..

Nowadays,much is made of Carbon Fibre,such as oars,but,it is beneficial,as it doesn't overtire the arms,increasing the duration & enjoyment of it.


Someone- The 'consultant', who, you say 'warned' you of 'aggravating' a back 'problem',is wrong,the reverse is the case,once an 'opinion'(or two)has been sought,it's how you approach it,start slowly,doing a little & gradually build it up over whatever time period is comfortable,that's better 'advice'.


The fact is, muscles,including our spine,which has a very large muscle holding it in position,are meant to be used regularly,atrophy,is the price of inactivity.

07/08/2012 10:41

Way too much effort. What happened to rowing one's boat merrily down the stream.


Hate to poor cold water on this burst of enthusiasm but several years ago I was warned by the consultant treating me for a back injury that rowing, and particularly the use of rowing machines, was one of the worst forms of exercise when it comes to causing or aggravating back problems.


Like many other exercise regimes you should take professional medical advice before trying this rather than relying on enthusiastic amateurs and people with a vested financial interest in the activity.

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