Rowing machines are a great way to get the cardiovascular and strength-training benefits of actual rowing at your local gym. According to the Mayo Clinic, a 160-pound person burns about 438 calories in one hour on a machine -- that's 100 to 200 calories more than you get from brisk walking. Plus, the strength conditioning helps tone your body. Once your body gets used to it, the rowing machine should be safe for your everyday exercise routine. But start out slowly so you don't cause back pain or injury.
One risk of using a rowing machine is back strain. But when you first start an exercise, you don't know how it will affect your body. That's why it's important to start slow and work up to a daily routine. At first, you should only spend five to 10 minutes on the rowing machine, and keep resistance low by setting the side lever between three and five. It may even be a good idea to start out rowing every other day to prevent back strain. During the next two or three weeks, increase your workout by one to two additional minutes each time, and raise the resistance if you feel up to it. When your body gets used to the machine, it should be perfectly fine to start using it everyday.
Keeping the Right Posture
Experts at the American College of Sports Medicine say the right form and posture is important if you want to avoid back pain. Start out by pushing your butt all the way to the back of the seat and sitting up straight. Don't hunch over. Avoid flexing your knees completely, and keep your elbows down to the sides of your body. Achieving correct posture is a crucial part of rowing machine safety.
In Case of Injury
If you do experience back pain or injury after using a rowing machine, you should stop rowing. And you shouldn't row until the pain is 100 percent gone. Rowing in spite of the pain won't help "work it out." It won't do anything but strain your back and shoulders even more. And that means worse back pain or more serious injury. Since you'll need more time for recovery, it can result in a longer amount of time before you can resume rowing again.
If you have a heart condition or history of lower back pain, you should talk to your doctor before you start to row. And then be very careful not to push yourself further or harder than the doctor recommends. If you experience significant back pain -- or heart-related chest pain -- during or after rowing, talk to your doctor again to make sure it's okay. And don't be afraid to ask questions; a doctor can help you figure out how much time and intensity is safe for you.
- Concept 2 Rowing: Weight Loss - Getting Started
- Concept 2 Rowing: Health and Safety
- American College of Sports Medicine: Selecting and Effectively Using a Rowing Machine
- Mayoclinic.com: Exercise for Weight Loss - Calories Burned in 1 Hour
- The Washington Post: Rowing Against the Current of Fitness Habits
- Physio Works: Rowing Injury
- The Daily Mail: How to Use a Rowing Machine
- Fit Sugar: Overlooked and Underappreciated - How to Use the Rowing Machine
- Fitness for Life: Buying a Rowing Machine? Check Out This Guide First
- British Journal of Sports Medicine: An Ergonomic Comparison of Rowing Machine Designs - Possible Implications for Safety
- Love to Know: Exercises for a Weak Back
Christina Lee began writing in 2004. Her co-authored essay is included in the edited volume, "Discipline and Punishment in Global Affairs." Lee holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and politics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Master of Arts in global affairs from American University and a Master of Arts in philosophy from Penn State University.