HodgeonRepeat blog - Black woman in indoor rowing class

10 Benefits of Indoor Rowing for Women Over 40

Starting at around age 40, many women begin to question whether their current exercise routine will go the distance when it comes to preserving their body’s conditioning as they age. There’s a shift in how they view exercise. It no longer exists simply as a way to burn calories or keep their body toned; women now start thinking about cardiac conditioning, balance and functional muscle strength.

They may wonder: How should I structure my workouts to preserve my body functioning? What habits do I need to develop to ensure that I maintain a healthy weight? The answer in my mind: start indoor rowing. I have 10 benefits of rowing for women over 40 that should convince you to give it a try.

HodgeonRepeat blog - woman over 40 exercising

Shifting Health Priorities After 40

Women over 40 may question whether the workouts they did in their 20s and 30s will serve them well as their bodies approach perimenopause and hormone levels begin to fluctuate. Women who exercised sporadically (or not at all) may start to think seriously about how to create a sustainable exercise routine. While we don’t know as much as we should about how to deal with menopause symptoms, exercise is always at the top of any list of wellness-promoting activities for women as they age.

I think women over 40 should seriously consider indoor rowing. Too many people believe rowing to be too hard (probably because it has been associated with strenuous CrossFit workouts for so long), but a woman of any age can row. Yes, I’ve seen many women over the age of 60 on the rowing machine at my gym. As I get closer to that milestone, I know that I will be one of them.

HodgeonRepeat blog - Jill Hodge on indoor rowing machine

Rowing Will Add Years to My Life

It’s possible that indoor rowing will add years to my life. After finding the machine in my 50s, I took to it quickly. Through my passion for it, I’ve lost more than 60 pounds, strengthened my body’s major muscle groups, protected my heart health, improved my mental health, and increased my social circle. Indoor rowing has touched every aspect of my life, improving it with each stroke. In terms of both physical and emotional benefits, rowing is helping to add years of wellness to my life.

Rowing is excellent for just about anyone, but I think it has incredible benefits for women over 40. It’s an efficient full-body workout (20-30 minute sessions are all it takes), providing both cardio and strength-training benefits. Add in a few strength-training sessions per week, and you create a formidable force against the challenges of aging. I’ve personally found rowing to be a wonderful exercise (in combination with a healthy, whole-foods diet) for reducing perimenopausal symptoms such as heart palpitations and hot flashes.

Top 10 Benefits of Indoor Rowing for Women Over 40

Need more convincing? Here’s my list of the top 10 benefits of indoor rowing for women over 40:

It’s gentle on your joints. At my top weight of 240 pounds, I wasn’t able to engage in joint-pounding workouts like running and stairclimbing. Rowing was gentle on my knees and allowed me to work out many muscle groups without the adverse effects of weight-bearing.

It can complement your body’s natural strengths. For example, I have large thigh muscles and strong shoulder muscles, and the pushing motion of rowing lets me use those large muscles to their full advantage. So, instead of working against my body’s natural physical attributes, rowing works with them.

HodgeonRepeat blog - black woman in indoor rowing class

It can help you lose or maintain weight. When I first got on the rower, I weighed 240 pounds, but I didn’t stay that way long. Rowing, along with a whole-foods diet, helped me lose more than 60 pounds in my 50s!

It’s always available at the gym. There may be a line to use the treadmill, but no one is clamoring over the indoor rower! I can almost always get a machine when I want it. I’m a member of a sort of secret club of people who know and respect the incredible benefits of this machine.

You’ll get street cred. Rowing isn’t an easy exercise, and it will feel like a workout, so once you master it, you’ll earn some respect (from yourself and others). Rowing lends itself to an incremental build-up of strength. You can get on and try 5 minutes, then progress to 10, and so on. Remarkably, even at my starting weight of 240 pounds, I was able to work up to 45-minute sessions, 3-4 times per week. Over time, I learned proper form and mechanics (read more about pain-free rowing and good form).

It improves posture. Since I began rowing, I’ve seen significant improvements in my shoulder and upper back strength. Rowing helps preserve and improve my body posture and combats the effects of long hours of sitting in a chair at work. I stand taller with good posture and present with an hourglass figure because my shoulders are well-developed. No hunching over for me!

It takes time to master, but you feel like you’ve accomplished something. Once you learn the basics of rowing correctly, you can build mastery over time. Your form improves, your stroke speed increases, and your body becomes more efficient at the movement pattern.

You can track or not. If you like to document your progress, you can track meters and time and get into challenges and speedwork. However, if you aren’t very competitive or don’t want to focus on the numbers at first, you can simply row and enjoy the rhythmic nature of the machine. I don’t care about my speed at this point. I enjoy the workout more when I get into the groove with the movement pattern and tune out the monitor results.

It’s a uniquely fun, rhythmic workout. I use a Concept2 air rower at the gym, but I have a water rowing machine at home (bought to do workouts at home during the pandemic), and I fell in love with its whooshing sound. The water rower uses water to create resistance, and it produces a smooth stroke with a soft whoosh sound. Sometimes I tune into the rhythmic water sound and use that to regulate the tempo and mechanics of my strokes.

HodgeonRepeat blog - woman on indoor rowing machine

It works your abs without crunches. I don’t know about you, but I find situps and other ab exercises boring and unsatisfying. Rowing burns fat on the entire body (including the stomach) and engages the core with every stroke. I like to think of each stroke as its own ab crunch. First, I shed the fat on top of the abs, and then I engage those core muscles.

It’s a great “one and done” exercise. Because rowing works some 85% of the body’s muscles, it is a super-efficient use of your workout time. It also provides both cardio and muscle-building benefits. As a result, you can work out without killing yourself and still know that you are getting age-defying benefits with every workout.

There you have it—10 reasons why you should consider adding indoor rowing to your workout routine. You’re now in the secret club of people who know the inside scoop on this incredible workout. Aging gracefully and with a strong, healthy body is just a few strokes away.

Get rowing on repeat!

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