The Health Benefits of Rowing


Slide seat rowing is the most magnificent sport there is, according to Fritz Hagerman, Ph.D., a professor in the Biological Science Department at Ohio University. Hagerman, who studies exercise physiology such as aerobic and anaerobic capacities, metabolic response, and the effects of blood lactate levels on athletes, found that competitive rowers expended almost twice the number of calories on a 2,000-meter course as a runner in a 3,000-meter steeplechase. He says the latter is considered one of the toughest events.

Doctors say there are now 1,000,000 joint replacement surgeries performed each year due to high impact sporting related activities. In 1999, 440,000 people had joint replacement surgery in the United States, with the hip and knee making up 98 percent of those procedures. For hip surgeries, the average age was 66 and for knees, the average age was 68.

Both competitive and recreational rowing are unique in comparison to most sports in that they exercise all of your major muscle groups. Everything from your legs, back, and arms are engaged while rowing. In addition, rowing is a low-impact sport. When executed properly, the rowing stroke is a fairly safe motion, providing little room for the serious injury often found in contact and high-impact sports.

The motion of each stroke is made up of four parts that flow into one another. These are the catch, the drive, the finish, and the recovery. The following is a description of the bio-mechanics of rowing.

The catch is the start of each stroke and it is the moment when you place your oar into water. The legs, hips and shoulders in use during the catch involve the following muscle groups: quadriceps, gastrocenius, soleus, gluteus maximus, and biceps brachii.

The drive

As you begin to push with your legs, you are entering the drive of the stroke. During the drive your l egs, back and arms are working with the trapezlus, posterio deltoid, quadriceps, pectorals major and biceps brachii muscle groups.

The pull

Once the legs are fully extended, you begin to pull the oar in with your arms and swing your shoulders backward, bringing yourself to the finish position. You have just utilized the rest of the entire body’s muscle groups as follows: g luteus maximus, quadriceps, brachioradialis, and abdominal.

The recovery

The entire process is repeated, each movement flowing into the next, forming another stroke.

Achieve fitness goals faster A University of Stockholm study has confirmed the added benefits of recreational activities when performed in an outdoor setting. Many of us already suspected that we exercise harder with outdoor exercise without feeling as tired or even like we have worked hard. We also know that the higher the exercise intensity, the sooner fitness goals can be reached. Achieving fitness goals more quickly with the improvements that are gained such as weight loss, reduced stress levels, shaping and toning are the rewards that help us stick with our workout program and continue to see improvements.

In a recent conversation with Dr. Grant Gainor, Chiropractor to local Olympic rowers and professional athletes, about rowing in the real world versus on a rowing machine, further advantages were clarified. According to Dr. Gainor, the range of motion required when rowing on the water is dictated by the need to shift the hands at the “catch” and “release” which require a deliberate alteration in the plane of motion in the movement. This in conjunction with the variables of the water surface and surrounding obstacles takes you into a constant state of awareness and hence pro-perceptive activity that is hard to emulate on a rowing machine. He stated that on a physical, structural level this is true but on a mental or emotional level it is even more so. He believes that the impact on us in dealing with the stress of modern society is hard to calculate, but the effect of consistent and all encompassing activity combined with the environment, in his experience, has an unparalleled impact upon helping the individual to maintain health, which to him is more that just fitness.

Rowing is also a time-efficient work out and a low impact sport enjoyed by all ages.

Reduce the health effects of stress and increased cortisol

Stress causes chemical changes in the body such as increased cortisol levels that, left unchecked, can have negative effects on both mental and physical health. High levels of stress contribute to health issues as diverse as depression, insomnia, heart disease, skin disorders and headaches. Interestingly enough, stress has been the subject of more than 20,000 scientific studies.

One 10-year study by Kiecolt-Glaser looked at the effects of stress on health of medical students. The research revealed decreased levels of the body’s natural killer cells, which fight infections and tumors, during even the familiar stress periods of exams. Whether you are studying for a test or just trying to cover extra bills, stress can have a negative effect on health.

Another study from “Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association” showed that mental stress can actually reduce blood flow to the heart. Combined with bad cholesterol and smoking the risk factor of stress on coronary heart disease patients was notable.

Even though studies confirm stress can have devastating consequences for our overall heath, we sometimes pride ourselves on working longer and harder, staying on top of the competition and working late at the office. This may set us up for the stress cycle.

To break free from the vicious stress cycle and stave off emotional fatigue and depression, try regular rowing along a local waterway. Your overall health will improve as your tension melts away with each breath of fresh, negative ion rich air.

Be environment friendly

Lastly while rowing you abstain from using an outboard motor and can enjoy the added peace of mind knowing you are not contributing the abrasive sounds, awful smell and heavy pollution levels of outboard power boating. For further information on this I recommend the book “Polluting for Pleasure” by Andre Mele. In 1993 his initial calculations showed that 50 million gallons of oil per year, or the equivalent of 5 Exxon Valdes oil spills were being released by pleasure boaters into the US waterways per year. In the end he concluded that outboard pleasure boating produces as much hydrocarbon pollution as all the road vehicles in America.

Aside from full body conditioning which builds lean muscle mass while burning 600 calories per hour, rowing allows you to release stress, lose weight and reduce your blood pressure. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy movement and your connection with the water as you take each stroke. It can also be the opportunity to push yourself beyond limits you ever thought possible.

Source by Marie Hutchinson


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