Rowing Machine: A Low-Impact Exercise for Joint Pain

A recent AARP article gave some helpful suggestions for low impact exercise options that can keep those who suffer from joint pain moving. This week we wanted to highlight the rowing machine exercise option! The great thing about low-impact versions of exercises is that they are known to support painful or weak joints while building muscle and improving heart health. Make sure to talk with your doctor to get the go-ahead to exercise before trying the following joint-friendly activities.

Rowing Machine:

rowing exercise for joint pain

You've probably seen this piece of equipment in the gym a hundred times but never used it. The rowing machine gives you a great low-impact cardio workout that also strengthens your whole body, from legs and core to upper back and arms.

"Rowing is low impact because of the seated position. This takes the body weight off of the knees and hips and redistributes it onto the seat, taking pressure off of the joints," explains Tricia Brouk, owner of Brouk Moves, an in-home personal training business specializing in senior health and wellness.

The best part, she says, is that you are in control of the movement: "The rowing motion is very smooth and can be increased or decreased in intensity by the action of the rower. The harder the client pulls, the more intense; the softer, the less intense." Before you try it, consult with a trainer at the gym to make sure your form is correct.

Here's a simple rowing workout to get you started:

  • 400 meters slow (This is your warm up) (3-5 minutes)
  • 200 meters, effort 4 out of 10 (exertion based on a 10-point scale, 1 being minimal) (45 seconds)
  • 400 meters, effort 6 out of 10 (90 seconds)
  • 200 meters, effort 8 out of 10 (45 seconds)
  • 400 meters, effort 2 out of 10 (This is your cool-down) (90 seconds)