There’s a new fitness trend emerging. The difference with this trend is that it doesn’t involve any new-fangled equipment or techniques. It’s indoor rowing. Rowing used to be fairly popular back in the early health club days, but fell out of vogue when the newer and fancier stair climbers, treadmills, and ellipticals came on the market. The trusty rower is now having a reprise, and gyms and health clubs in some parts of the world are dusting off those seats and foot straps. In fact it’s so in vogue in some areas of the UK that even die-hard spinners are jumping off their bikes and on to rowing machines. With a husband who rows every morning, I have been reading with interest this latest trend for indoor rowing. Does it really have all those benefits over other exercises, and is rowing really the most efficient exercise ever?
With rowing, each stroke you do, pretty much uses every major muscle group. While spinning is 95 per cent legs and 5 per cent upper body, the rowing ratio is more along the lines of 60 per cent legs and 40 per cent upper body. As well as giving your arms and your legs a fantastic workout, a big part of rowing is core strength, making it a great full-body exercise. Since you’re using so many muscles at once, your heart rate will most certainly be elevated. This makes rowing a much more efficient workout than running or spinning. Rowing can burn upwards of 1000 calories an hour, high intensity spinning can hit around 800, but you’d have to push yourself pretty hard on a treadmill to hit those numbers. Which also makes rowing a great exercise if you’re pushed for time, as even a short row means you’ll still burn plenty of calories and get a full body workout.
Rowing is considered a low impact cardio exercise, which can be done by people of all ages and varying fitness levels, and a very safe form of cardio. It’s easy on your joints; especially the knees and ankles, and can be performed at high endurance levels by nearly everyone, and without the fear of injury. Another major benefit of rowing is that it can improve your posture, so if you spend a lot of time hunched over a computer or a desk, rowing helps wake up the muscles in your back.
My husband has been an indoor rower since he got his first Concept 2 rowing machine nine years ago. He now rows 5-10k every morning. The main reason he made the swap from running to rowing was dodgy knees. I’ll row occasionally at home, and rowing is sometimes one of the machines used as part of the circuit class I go to. In Beijing your options for where to buy a rowing machine are limited to sellers on Taobao, Amazon, or the second hand market. It’s not a popular piece of fitness equipment in China, and so the Decathlon stores in Beijing do not stock them. Some gyms will have rowing machines that you can use alongside the treadmills and bikes, but you certainly won’t see them in every gym or health club. Which is a shame, because unlike other pieces of fitness equipment, they take up less space and are light enough to easily move if space is needed for something else.
The Concept 2 is the most popular model on the market, as it’s designed so well that even the wearable parts last for many years of constant use. It just doesn’t break down like cheaper rowers do. A Concept 2 will set you back GBP 800 in the UK, and on Taobao I’ve seen them for RMB 1,000. Granted, it’s not a cheap piece of equipment to buy. But you’ll save on gym membership, and rowing can be done in the comfort of your air purifier filtered home. So in that respect, it’s a great investment for your health and for your figure.
beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent Sally Wilson moved to Beijing in 2010 from the UK with her husband and son. Her daughter was born here in 2011 and both her kids keep her happily busy. In her spare time, Sally loves to stroll through Beijing’s hutongs and parks. She is a (most of the time) keen runner and loves reading: books, magazines, news, and celeb websites – anything really. Sally is also a bit of a foodie and loves trying out new restaurants.