Are Rowing Machine Calories Accurate?

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are rowing machine calories calculators accurate

I’m not sure how many of you track your calorie intake and calorie burn numbers, but I certainly do! It’s easier to maintain your weight and even lose weight when you crunch the numbers and know that you are creating a calorie deficit or maintaining a caloric balance.

While some people rely on their Apple Watch, Fitbit, or other health tracking watch, I think that avid rowers, like myself, simply rely on what the display tells me. If the display on my rowing machine tells me that I’ve been rowing for 30 minutes and that I’ve burned 300 calories, I totally believe it, don’t you?


Hydrow Rower


However, I had to check because someone recently told me that these computer-generated calorie numbers are not very accurate. WTH?? How can that be? Is it true? Is it all rowing machine displays or just certain brands? What I found is astounding.

The majority of calorie burn calculators that come built into the display of rowing machines is for estimates only. So the numbers of calories burned as displayed on rowing machine monitors are not accurate figures but only estimates.

I honestly had no idea! I actually had to go look at my Hydrow manual to find out that it does say that this is an estimate only!

Keep reading because what you are about to discover is nothing short of jaw-dropping.


How Does Rowing Calculate Calories Burned?

Manufacturers know that there are several other variables that will come into play, so rather than have you input your age, weight, and other info, the calculators simply estimate the amount of calories you are burning based on whatever input the manufacturer decided was appropriate.

rowing machine calories calculated during a workout

Well, perhaps for some people, an estimation of the calories you burn while rowing is fine, but I really want as close to the actual number as possible!

A Better Way to Estimate the Number of Calories Burned

Let me show you how you can get a much closer estimate to the true number of calories burned using two simple steps.

First, you need a heart rate monitor. You can use a chest strap or a watch, or whatever type of heart rate monitor you prefer.

Do your workout as you normally would and check out your average heart rate when you have finished.

Now, plug in your numbers and info into this online calculator.

are rowing machine calorie calculators accurate?

To be honest, my Hydrow rowing machine wasn’t terribly inaccurate. It only read about 10 calories less than the calculator said I burned but I’ve heard from others that there was as much as a 40 percent difference between what their rowing machine display said and the number of calories they actually burned.

Wow, 40 percent! That’s shocking.

I haven’t tried this with all types of rowing machines, but it appears, at least according to what my friends have been telling me, that the cheaper the rowing machine, the less accurate the number of calories burned.

Not that it really matters now, though, right? You don’t need to rely on the rowing machine display to calculate the calories you burn, all you need is a heart rate monitor and the link above.

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How Many Calories Does 30 Minutes of Rowing Burn?

As you can see from the online calculator, there’s more to estimating calorie burn over a period of time than just the type of activity and the amount of time spent doing it.

Your age, sex, and weight all make a huge difference, including the intensity at which you do the rowing workout.

Your heart rate needs to hit about 55-85 percent of its maximum for your body to burn more calories and fat. This is called your target heart rate and it also has several variables. If you want to find out your target heart rate, you can use this calculator.

Let’s use these two calculators to determine the calorie burn for 30 minutes of rowing for two different people.

Person #1 is a 35-year old female who weighs 150 pounds. Her target heart rate is between 101 and 157 beats per minute. Let’s take the middle ground and say her average heart rate during a 30-minute moderate rowing workout is 130. Using the calorie burn calculator, we now know that she just burned 227 calories in 30-minutes.

Our second example is a 60-year old female who weighs 125 pounds. Her target heart rate is between 88 and 136 beats per minute, much lower than the 35-year old. For this example, let’s say her average heart rate during her 30-minute workout is 106. Using the same calorie burn calculator, this woman burned 174 calories.

Using a heart rate monitor and then plugging in your pertinent data into the calculator can help you more accurately determine how many calories you have burned.

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So How Long Does It Take to Burn 50 Calories on a Rowing Machine?

You can use the same method above to determine how long you would need to row to burn a set number of calories.

Let’s say that you are person #1 in our above example. During your last rowing session, you know that your average heart rate was 130. Using the calorie calculator, you can play with the number of minutes until you see that the calculator says you burned 50 calories.

** Please note above figures will vary depending on your weight, height & age.

In our example, this 35-year old woman who weighs 150 pounds and had an average heart rate during exercise would only need to row for 7 minutes to burn 53 calories.

Of course, you would need to match that heart rate number in order to achieve the same results but if you are interested in weight loss and calorie burning, then using these calculators will help tremendously.

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How Effective is Rowing for Weight Loss?

Rowing is an extremely effective way to burn calories and drop excess weight.

This is because rowing is a full-body workout that uses all the major muscle groups during your rowing session. Unlike exercise bikes or treadmills, rowing works the upper and lower body at the same time for burning more calories than you ever thought possible.

I love the cardio workout I get from rowing and when doing high-intensity interval training workouts, I burn even more calories than a regular workout.

Anyone who is interested in getting lean, toned muscles, building new muscle without looking like the Incredible Hulk, blasting away fat, and burn calories like a furnace will want to look into rowing workouts.

The Bottom Line

I don’t know about you, but I was pretty shocked to find out how inaccurate some rowing calculators were when it came to burning calories.

For anyone who is trying to lose or maintain their weight, an accurate calorie reading is vitally important! Using the method I outlined above will help you fight the battle of the bulge!

Keep in mind that you also need to eat a healthy diet, cut out junk food, and shake up your workout every two weeks or so by changing things up.

Your body becomes accustomed to using the same amount of energy during exercise so if you change your rowing workouts frequently, your body will burn more calories.

You can always change your fitness training to include some weight lifting or going for long walks or going swimming. Don’t let your body get used to your exercise routine. Shaking things up is also good for your brain.

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Even if you love rowing, you can do a HIIT workout one day, then do a long, moderate row the next time around. Stop rowing in the middle of your routine to do some Pilates or jumping jacks. Keep your body guessing and you will become a calorie-burning master!

I encourage you to get up, get moving, and happy rowing!

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  1. […] You can lose weight using an indoor rowing machine by creating a calorie deficit. Most people cut back on 200-500 calories per day, then use their rowing machine to burn off another 200-500 calories. […]

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