Running generally burns more calories than stationary rowing and rowing on water, but effort is the most important criterion in how many calories you burn while exercising. Running at various fast speeds (a 6-, 7- and 8-minute mile) tied for first place and also ranked third and fourth in calories burned in a “Harvard Heart Letter” study of 158 exercises. Stationary rowing ranked much lower. Vigorous rowing on water wasn’t studied by the Harvard report, but ranks very high in a study by Wisconsin.
Exercise experts generally categorize effort as very vigorous, vigorous, moderate, light and very light. Your heart rate measures your effort. When you raise your heart rate, you burn more calories. You’re exercising very vigorously when your heart rate is at least 90 percent of your maximum heart rate, which is 220 heartbeats per minute minus your age (for example, 153 heartbeats per minute if you’re 50 years old). You’re exercising vigorously when your heart rate is 70 to 89 percent of your maximum heart rate, moderately when your heart rate is 55 to 69 percent of your maximum heart rate, lightly when your heart rate is 35 to 54 percent of your maximum heart rate, and very lightly when your heart rate is less than 35 percent of your maximum heart rate.
Rowing on Water
The importance of effort can be seen by looking at how many calories you burn while rowing on water. Rowing on water vigorously burns 844 calories per hour if you weigh 155 pounds, according to a study by the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services. The same person burns 493 calories rowing moderately and 211 calories rowing lightly. Heavier people burn more calories. Rowing vigorously burns more calories than running at a pace of 9 minutes per mile, which is tied for seventh in the Harvard study. Rowing moderately burns fewer calories than running at a pace of 12 minutes per mile. Rowing lightly burns fewer calories than bowling and slow dancing.
Rowing vigorously on a stationary rowing machine burns fewer calories than rowing vigorously on water -- 632 calories per hour if you’re 155 pounds, according the Harvard study. Running at a pace of 11.5 minutes per mile burns more calories. Rowing moderately on a stationary rowing machine burns more calories (520 calories per hour if you’re 155 pounds) than rowing moderately on water (493). Rowing vigorously ranks fifth in weight loss among the 20 gym activities listed, while rowing moderately is tied for eighth place.
You will generally burn more calories when you run faster because running faster requires more effort and requires your heart to work harder. The average 155-pound person running for one hour burns 1,228 calories running at a pace of 6 minutes per mile, 1,078 calories running a 7-minute mile, 930 calories running an 8-minute mile, 818 calories running a 9-minute mile, 744 calories running a 10-minute mile and 596 calories running a 12-minute mile, according to the Harvard study.
Jay Schwartz has had articles printed by the "Chicago Tribune," "USA Today" and many other publications since 1983. He's covered health, fitness, nutrition, business, real estate, government, features, sports and more. A Lafayette, Pa. college graduate, he's also written for several Fortune 500 corporate publications and produced business newsletters.