Treadmill vs Rowing Machine: Which Should You Buy?

You're probably asking yourself 'should I buy a treadmill or a rowing machine?' if you're into fitness.

Perhaps you've also checked out our comparison of treadmills and ellipticals and struggling to decide on the perfect fitness machine for your home gym.

If this is the case, don't worry. We're here to guide you through some of the key similarities and differences in price, impact on fitness, and storage to help you come to an informed decision.

Let's begin...

Treadmill vs Rowing Machine - Price

A key factor to take into consideration when deciding between the two is the price and, like with most fitness machinery, this can vary massively.

Typically speaking, you can pick up an entry to mid-level treadmill, like this XTERRA Fitness TR150 found in our best treadmills list, for less than a comparable rowing machine like one from Dripex.

Treadmill vs rowing machine XTERRA Fitness product image of a black treadmill
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Image Credit: XTERRA Fitness

While an entry to mid-level machine may be good, in both cases, you'll probably be missing out on some useful additional features like a full HD screen, more levels of resistance, and optimised gym classes as found on the premium NordicTrack RW 900 Rower from our best rowing machines list.

Treadmill vs Rowing Machine - Impact On Fitness

Muscle Activation and Calories

A study conducted by the University of Roehampton compared running on a treadmill to rowing on a machine and found the participants on a treadmill burnt 350 calories in 20 minutes, while those on the rowing machine expended 300 calories.

The results also showed, however, that rowing activated more muscle groups than running which may be unsurprising given the pulling motion required to row.

In fact, your quads, hamstrings, back, abs, arms, shoulders, and calves should all be working during a single rowing stroke.

Joint Pain

The impact of your exercise machine on your joints is definitely something you should consider, especially if your joints are a particularly weak area.

A 2014 study of 24 people over 8 weeks found that joint torques, or rotations, in the elbow, shoulder, lumbar, and knee improved by 30% using a rowing machine.

So, with that being said, a rowing machine may be more joint-friendly as running, especially on treadmills, has been linked to joint pain.

However, a multi-year study of almost 75,000 runners published in 2013 found that, contrary to popular belief, running doesn't actually increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.

Whether running is bad for your joints or not, the top running shoes available tend to come with loads of padding to displace the high-impact shock from your legs and ankles as you run, thus providing some protection while using a treadmill.

Treadmill vs Rowing Machine - Storage

Generally speaking, you're more likely to find foldable treadmills, like the XTERRA Fitness TR150, than foldable rowing machines.

This should make them easier to store away once you've finished a workout, but that doesn't necessarily mean they take up less space when in use.

In fact, a rowing machine, like the Lanos Rowing Machine featured in our list of the best rowing machines, doesn't actually take up a huge amount of floor space compared to a treadmill like the NordicTrack T Series 6.5.

Treadmill vs rowing machine Lanos product image of the uniquely designed machine with two poles instead of one handle.
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Image Credit: LANOS

Moreover, a rowing machine may be kinder to your neighbours if, for example, you live in a flat because treadmills can be extremely loud due to the continuous pounding of your feet.

Treadmill vs Rowing Machine: Which Should You Buy?

In our opinion, both are great machines for improving your cardiovascular fitness if used correctly by incorporating some form of progression.

However, while running can be extremely challenging and good for building your lower body strength, we feel a rowing machine offers you a more complete, full-body workout.

In fact, a 2015 study of 24 people with low vision found that rowing 5 days a week for 6 weeks led to a significant decrease in fat mass and total body fat percentage which, we feel, is a strong indication of the benefits of rowing.

Read More: Exercise Bike vs Elliptical: Which Should You Buy?

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