Blog Weight Loss Rowing Calories Burned: Does This Exercise Help With Fat Loss?

Rowing Calories Burned: Does This Exercise Help With Fat Loss?

Rowing is a great cardiovascular activity that is fun to do and also supports heart health and weight loss.


For those with boats who are lucky enough to live near a large body of water, outdoor rowing is a fun way of exploring nature and the outdoors while burning some calories. For those who don’t particularly want to go outside, indoor rowing is a great alternative to other cardio workouts such as running on a treadmill.

But how many calories does this particular workout burn? Read on to find out more about rowing calories burned, if this exercise can be added to a workout plan for skinny guys, whether rowing can give you abs, and much more.

How Many Calories Are Burned Rowing For 20 Minutes?

Rowing calories burned for any amount of time is dependent on several factors, including:

Workout intensity 

When it comes to rowing exercise calories burned, the amount of effort you put into the session will largely determine how many calories you burn.

For example, a person who rows slowly as though they are simply gliding on water will not use a lot of energy and will therefore burn fewer calories. 

At the same time, a person who decides to give their all and exerts the maximum effort to row as fast and as hard as they can will burn more calories by the end of their workout. This person can actually work out for a shorter period of time and still burn more calories than the first person.

rowing calories burned per hour

Body weight

As a general rule, those who weigh more will burn more calories when performing pretty much any activity.

The reasoning behind this is simply that the more you weigh, the more effort you need to exert to move your body. So simply moving your body and doing a strenuous activity equates to more calories burned.

Body composition (i.e. muscle mass) 

There are two reasons for this:

  • To sustain muscle mass, your body must burn more energy – even when at rest – than it has to sustain any stored fat.

Research has shown that for every pound of muscle you have, your body must burn 4 to 7 more calories in order to sustain it. At the same time, the body only needs to burn an extra 2 to 3 calories to sustain one pound of fat (3).

  • Muscle repair requires energy which increases calorie utilization – the reason why weight training is said to burn calories for longer periods than cardio workouts is because the process of repairing muscle tissue also burns calories.

When you work out, muscle tissue breaks down and this same tissue repairs (becoming stronger and bigger) through rest. This process requires the body to utilize energy.

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The older we get, the more muscle mass we lose along the way. This means that in comparison to younger people, older people burn fewer calories at rest and when working out.


As a general rule, women have more fat stored in their bodies and men have more muscle. This explains why men tend to lose weight faster than women and why they tend to put on muscle mass more quickly.


The faster your metabolism, the faster you burn any calories ingested. If you already have a fast metabolism, working out will only help it become faster.

With all these factors to consider, we can safely say that it is difficult to determine the amount of rowing calories burned per hour or in just 20 minutes by any individual.

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How Long Does It Take To Burn 1,000 Calories When Rowing?

As mentioned above, determining the calories burned per individual per exercise is difficult as there are too many factors that affect how much energy your body burns per day. However, this does not mean that it is completely impossible.

Online calorie calculators are a simplified way of determining this number per individual. To determine the calories burned during a workout, these calculators require you to input your current weight, amount of time spent working out, the type of workout done, and workout intensity. 

This will give you a rough estimate that can help you decide if a specific workout is good for you. To determine how long it takes to burn 1,000 kcal, we will be using the rowing for 30 minutes calories burned numbers provided by Harvard Health Publishing

The following table outlines stats for indoor rowing calories burned for people who weigh 125, 155, and 185 pounds (2).

Rowing pace 125 pounds(56.6 kg) 155 pounds(70.3 kg) 185 pounds(83.9 kg)
Stationary moderate pace 210 kcal 252 kcal 294 kcal
Stationary vigorous pace 255 kcal 369 kcal 440 kcal

From these figures, it can be seen that a person who weighs 125 pounds and rows at: 

  • Moderate pace will take approximately 2.38 hours to burn 1,000 calories using this exercise

(1000 kcal x 30 min)/210 kcal = 142.857 minutes. 142.857 min/60 min = 2.38 hours

  • Vigorous pace will take approximately 2 hours to burn 1,000 calories

(1000 kcal x 30 min)/255 kcal = 117.647 minutes. 117.647 min/60 min = 1.96 hours

A heavier person who weighs 185 pounds and rows at: 

  • Moderate pace will take approximately 1.7 hours to burn 1,000 calories
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(1000 kcal x 30 min) 294 kcal = 102.040 minutes. 102.040 minutes/60 minutes = 1.7 hours

  • Vigorous pace will take approximately 1.1 hours to burn 1,000 kcal

(1000 kcal x 30 min) 440 kcal = 68.181 minutes. 68.181 mins/60 mins = 1.1 hours

You must remember this is simply a rough estimate of how much time you will need to use this much energy during indoor rowing.

Read more: How to Stop Binge Eating at Night – Using the Evidence, Showing Why You Do It.

Is Rowing 500 Meters In 2 Minutes Good?

As a beginner, rowing 500 meters in 2 minutes is definitely good. 

However, for intermediate rowers or advanced/athlete rowers, 500 meters in 2 minutes is not a good thing. Male and female rowers are expected to cover 500 meters in under 1 minute 20 seconds and 1 minute 30 seconds respectively when competing.

However, these times can only be achieved through hours of rigorous training. If you want to increase your row time, here are some steps you can take:

Build your upper body 

Rowing in itself is a great full-body workout that targets the core, arms, glutes, quads, upper back, calves, and lats. 

Rowing uses a lot of upper-body strength, so to improve this, you need to make sure your upper-body gym day is filled with numerous exercises to build the chest, arms, and back.

Such exercises include push-ups, bench press, overhead press, bicep curls, tricep extensions and dips, lateral raises, and reverse flys.

Work on your cross-training 

Cross training is important for all athletes as it allows for muscle recovery (for the muscles used the most in your sport of choice), improves stamina, and keeps you mentally stimulated. 

Some good cross-training exercises for rowers include cycling, different types of strength/weight training, running, swimming, cross-fit, and skiing.

rowing calories burned vs running

Build your core 

The core is important for this exercise as it helps with power and proper posture.

Good core exercises that can help you work on this include planks, crunches, Russian twists, leg raises, sit-ups, and deadbugs.

Work on your rowing posture 

Good rowing posture goes beyond working the core muscles. When rowing, you should ensure that you keep your back long and straight and your shoulders relaxed and away from your ears.

When rowing, you should allow your body to hinge forward and backward from the hips. Do not tip too far forward or backward as this will negatively affect your stroke.

Work with your teammates 

If you compete in teams, make sure you join your teammates when they practice. This helps build a great team while also improving timing and sequencing.

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Can Rowing Burn Belly Fat?

Yes, it can.

Rowing is a fantastic full-body workout that helps burn a large number of calories during a workout. Remember, to burn belly fat you shouldn’t just do exercises targeting the core. Research has found that such localized exercises (aka spot training workouts) do not work for this intended purpose (7, 6).

Instead, you should do exercises that help with full-body fat burning. In addition to rowing, workouts you should consider include brisk walking, running, hiking, mountain climbers, burpees, and swimming.

In addition, you should remember to maintain an adequate diet. Ultimately, working out with a bad diet will not lead to positive weight or fat loss results.

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Can You Get In Shape By Just Rowing?

Yes, you can. Rowing for weight loss is one of the many low-impact exercise options that people who struggle with extra body fat or obesity can engage in.

However, no matter how many calories are burned on a rowing machine, you will not see substantial or even long-lasting weight loss changes if you don’t have appropriate eating habits. It’s important to remember that weight loss is dependent on the 80/20 rule – 80 percent diet to 20 percent exercise of choice. This fact has been proven by many studies and reviews over the years

  • In a paper published in 2017, researchers advised that while diet and exercise can both help with weight management separately, the best and most long-lasting effects only come from a combination of both (5).
  • A study that examined the role of exercise in weight loss and maintenance found that while working out can lead to weight loss, combining more physical activity and an adequate diet is more effective for sustaining weight loss than working out alone (8).
  • A review of six studies published in 2014 confirmed that the most weight loss and effective weight maintenance was achieved by study participants who included both dietary changes and exercise in their programs. While programs with just diet changes or more exercise also showed changes, these changes were not as effective when compared to a combination of both (4)
  • An 8-week comparison study of overweight women aged between 40 and 60 years old found that programs including diet restriction with exercise produced the best weight loss results. Programs that only called for diet changes or more exercise also showed changes, but the combination of the two yielded greater results. (1).
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In addition to making dietary changes, you could also try to incorporate strength training as part of your rowing workout. As previously mentioned, strength training increases muscle mass, which will increase the metabolism and calorie burning.

indoor rowing calories burned

What Is A HIIT Rowing Workout?

This is simply a rowing workout that follows the simple basic rules of any high-intensity interval workout. In such a workout, you should simply: 

  • Row as hard as you can for a specific amount of time – this can be short bursts of 10 seconds up to a minute.
  • Slow down and allow yourself to recover and catch your breath – This can be anywhere between 15 seconds and a minute, or equal to the work time.
  • Go back to your exercise and row as fast and hard as you can for the next interval.

This cycle is repeated for an amount of time that is largely dependent on your intensity and interval times. As HIIT workouts are done at a vigorous pace, HIIT rowing calories burned can be the same as or slightly higher than those shown in the above table.

Rowing vs Running: Which Is Better For Weight Loss?

Rowing vs runningBoth exercises are great cardio workouts that can help weight loss. The main difference is that rowing is considered to be low impact, while running is considered more high impact.

High-impact exercises involve activities or movements that place a significant impact on your feet and the joints of the lower body. Low-impact exercises are the opposite and will not have your feet pounding on the ground.

While anyone can do low-impact workouts, at either a slow or high intensity, they are more recommended for people who are recovering from injury and those suffering from joint pain.

Regarding rowing calories burned vs running calories burned, the latter burns more calories than the former (2). Here’s a table that better illustrates this:

Exercise 125 pounds 155 pounds 185 pounds
Vigorous rowing 255 kcal 369 kcal 440 kcal
Running 7.5 mph 375 kcal 450 kcal 525 kcal
Running 10 mph 453 kcal 562 kcal 671 kcal

Read more: Calories Burned By Heart Rate: Should You Use This To Know How Much Weight You’re Losing? 


Rowing vs walking calories burned: which works better?

If you are looking to burn more calories during your workout, rowing is your best bet. A person who rows at a moderate pace will burn more calories than a person who walks briskly at 4 mph (2).

Can rowing get you abs?

Yes, it can.

Not only do you need to keep your ab muscles engaged throughout a rowing session, but the workout will also target your core muscles, helping them become stronger and more pronounced through the skin.

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Why am I gaining weight rowing?

Weight gain when working out is generally due to two reasons:

  1. A calorie surplus  – if you are working out but still eating more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. Make sure to maintain a calorie deficit if weight loss is your goal. General recommendations suggest cutting approximately 500 calories from your typical diet. However, you should make sure you still consume enough for your basic physiological needs. 
  2. Muscle gain – if you are training consistently, including  an adequate diet, and getting enough sleep (7 to 9 hours a night), then your weight may be due to muscle gains.

Remember that muscle occupies less space in the body than fat. This is why lean people tend to weigh more than people often think. If this is you, step off the scale and use other methods to track your weight loss.

Take bi-weekly selfies or full-length pictures and use these to track your progress. How clothing fits is also another great and reliable way of tracking weight loss progress.

Does rowing make you lean or bulky?

Similar to other cardio workouts, rowing is better suited for a lean physique than a bulky one. However, this doesn’t mean that it can’t be part of a workout plan for skinny people. Skinny people also need to work on their stamina and heart health and rowing can help with this.

Rather than ignoring cardio workouts in their bulking-up journey, they should aim to do more weight training and less cardio. This will provide a good balance in their health and exercise plans.

How quickly will I see results from rowing?

Regardless of the type of workout plan, weight loss results can typically take anything from 4 to 6 weeks before they become noticeable. However, results such as increased stamina and endurance become noticeable much sooner.

Can back workout calisthenics help with rowing?

Yes, back workouts calisthenics can. Remember that rowing uses a lot of upper-body muscles, including those in the upper back. Using back calisthenics to increase the strength in this part of the body can definitely help improve your rowing performance.

The Bottom Line

While rowing calories burned are based on a variety of factors such as workout intensity, body composition, and weight, it cannot be denied that this workout is excellent for weight loss. If you have been looking for a low-impact workout that can be easily modified to fit different intensities, then rowing may be exactly what you need.



This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. A comparison of diet versus diet + exercise programs for health improvement in middle-aged overweight women (2020,
  2. Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights (2021,
  3. Controversies in Metabolism (n.d.,
  4. Diet or exercise interventions vs combined behavioral weight management programs: a systematic review and meta-analysis of direct comparisons (2014,
  5. Dynamic Energy Balance: An Integrated Framework for Discussing Diet and Physical Activity in Obesity Prevention—Is it More than Eating Less and Exercising More? (2017,
  6. Effect of abdominal resistance exercise on abdominal subcutaneous fat of obese women: a randomized controlled trial using ultrasound imaging assessments (2015,
  7. The effect of abdominal exercise on abdominal fat (2011,
  8. The Role of Exercise and Physical Activity in Weight Loss and Maintenance (2015,
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