Rowing vs. Running: What's the Better Cardio Workout?

Rowing vs. Running: What's the Better Cardio Workout?

Both types of exercise come with many benefits.

By PelotonUpdated January 17, 2023


Rowing and running are both excellent forms of exercise with many benefits, but they also have some distinct differences. When it comes to rowing vs. running, it's impossible to state that one is significantly better than the other. Not only does each person have their personal preferences, but there are instances where one will work much better than the other, based on your health and fitness goals.

Choosing the right cardio workout for you may take some trial and error. We recommend training for both rowing and running, as it likely won't take too long to figure out which one you prefer.

This article will discuss the difference between rowing and running, why they're both outstanding for your health, and includes a breakdown of each to guide you through decision-making toward one or the other. Besides the physical and mental health benefits of these cardio workouts–and one of the best parts of exercise–you get to choose what you enjoy. Keep in mind that you can always switch it up, too. Now, let’s get started!

What Makes Rowing and Running Good Cardio Workouts?

Rowing and running are excellent forms of aerobic exercise, meaning they increase your heart rate and breathing, improving your circulation and conditioning your cardiovascular system.

Rowing is a low-impact, high-intensity cardio workout that works the entire body and increases your strength, power and endurance. Running, on the other hand, is a weight-bearing exercise, so it helps strengthen your bones and can increase your stamina. Both activities involve large muscle groups, making them ideal for improving cardiovascular fitness levels.

There's no denying that rowing and running provide many benefits while acting as fantastic cardio workouts. You don't have to pick just one, but most people find one they like more than the other. Regardless of your preference, we can assure you that both provide incredible cardio benefits that will improve your cardiovascular health.

Why Choose Running?

Any avid runner will provide you with dozens of reasons to choose the activity they love, and they usually have compelling and convincing arguments to back it up. At Peloton, we love running, so we developed the ultimate treadmill to cater to those who enjoy it as much as we do.

State-of-the-art equipment isn't the only reason to kick off your running career. If you've been on the fence about starting to run, either outside or indoors, consider the following benefits of running.

1. Improved Cardiovascular Health

Running is an excellent way to strengthen your heart and improve cardiovascular health. Regular running can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems.

2. Weight Management

Running is a great way to burn calories and lose weight, and it can help you maintain a healthy body weight while reducing your risk of obesity-related health problems.

3. Improved Mental Health

Running can help reduce stress and improve your overall mental state, giving you a feeling of accomplishment, boosting your self-esteem, and relieving symptoms of depression.

4. Stronger Bones and Muscles

Running strengthens your bones and builds muscles in your legs, potentially reducing your risk of osteoporosis, improving your balance and coordination and making everyday activities easier to carry out..

5. Increased Energy Levels

Running can give you more energy throughout the day, improving your stamina–which can encourage you to stay more active in the long term.

Why Choose Rowing?

Rowing is an excellent cardio alternative to running. While some may consider running the more traditional of the two cardio exercises, with the development of equipment such as Peloton Row, many gym-goers are shifting their focus to the lesser-known powerhouse that is rowing.

Rowing provides a more comprehensive workout than running, considering how many muscle groups it works. Rowing’s growing popularity has gained some traction recently, so let's take a closer look at why you might want to squeeze in this crowd-pleasing workout a few times each week!

1. Cardio Benefits

Like running, rowing is an effective cardiovascular exercise. It encourages you to use your entire body while increasing your heart rate and strengthening your heart muscles, for improved heart health.

2. Increased Strength

Rowing is a great form of strength training because it works all of the major muscle groups in your body for an effective full-body workout. From your quads and glutes in your lower body to your deltoids and lats in the upper body, rowing provides the ultimate workout while helping you improve your overall strength.

3. Low-Impact Exercise

Rowing is a high-intensity but low-impact exercise, meaning it puts less stress on your joints than other forms of exercise. This makes it an ideal calorie-blasting activity for people with joint pain or injuries that prevent them from participating in high-impact training, such as running.

4. Stress Relief

Rowing can be soothing and therapeutic. The rhythmic motion of rowing may put you into the zone, helping to reduce stress and curb racing thoughts. Rowing can help with anxiety and stress, making it beneficial for both your physical and mental health.

The Best Cardio Option Based on Your Goals

Choosing the right cardio option means knowing your goals before making a decision. If you like both running and rowing–do both! But, one could be better for you depending on what you want to get out of your fitness journey. Both can help you stay fit and healthy, so you’ll want to pick the one that will get you closer to your ultimate fitness goals.


If you want to drop weight, strengthen your bones, and tone your legs, running is where you need to be. Running is a fantastic outlet for stress and is particularly great for people with no muscle or joint problems. Running can be especially beneficial when paired with regular strength classes, including Pilates, yoga, and barre. If your goal is to run a 5K, marathon, or triathlon one day, choose running. Picking your cardio is all about what you want your body to be able to accomplish.


Rowing is cardio and strength, all in one. Because it requires such intense effort, you could enjoy a shorter workout session than if you were going for a run. As a full-body workout, rowing will work well for those who want to drop weight and build muscle. If you prefer to keep your cardio and strength training separate, rowing might not be your cup of tea. Toning up and getting stronger go hand-in-hand with the rowing machine.

Rowing vs. Running: Can You Do Both?

You can easily integrate both rowing and running into your workout routine.

Rowing can be beneficial for runners in particular, as it helps build strength in the upper body while providing a good cardiovascular workout. In addition, rowing is so helpfully low-impact that it offers a nice supplement to running–on those days you want to skip a run to ease up on the stress on your joints, you can still reap the benefits of rowing.

If you want to run and row, you'll love the fact that rowing builds up the muscles in your hamstrings, glutes, quads, and core, which are all muscle groups you need to run well. The two exercises complement each other beautifully. We encourage our Members who choose to do both to alternate days to avoid overuse injuries.

Rowing vs. Running: Frequently Asked Questions

If you have questions about the differences between rowing and running–you’re not alone! We’ve included two of the most frequently asked questions we’ve received below.

Which exercise burns more calories: running or rowing?

According to a recent Harvard study, if calorie burn is your goal, running slightly outpaces rowing on that front–although it will depend on the pace you run at and how intense your rowing session is.

Which equipment is easier to use?

That depends on who you ask! Both treadmills and rowing machines are easy to use once you get the hang of the controls. Peloton has two easy-to-use cardio machines: Peloton Tread and Peloton Row.

Rowing and Running: Final Thoughts

Running and rowing are fantastic workouts with incredible cardiovascular health perks. Running burns slightly more calories than rowing, although rowing offers a fuller-body workout.

If you're interested in either–or both!–you'll be pleased to know that Peloton has heaps of available classes for you to choose from in running, rowing, and much more. Experimenting with both is the perfect way to determine which cardio workout you prefer. You can begin toning up, building muscle, losing weight, and improving your heart health as soon as today. Row or run with Peloton!