Rowing machines have long been popular home fitness equipment, as they're relatively cheap but quite effective. A common combination is a cycle for lower body strength and a rower for (mostly) upper body, though the popularity of cross trainers in recent years has reduced interest in rowers somewhat. Rowing machines have a great fitness and weight loss potential as they exercise large muscle groups in both the upper and lower body, helping tone thighs and bum and firm up arms and the back muscles. Because of this, a user can often burn as much in rowing 25 minutes as a cyclist would in 40 minutes. And compared to many exercises, rowing is low impact, with little pressure to knees and ankles. Another benefit is you can watch TV or listen to music while you work out. The main downside is the workout can get boring after a bit.
There are many models on the market, but you'll want to get a sturdy one as this will take some punishment. We've identified the lesser known V-fit Tornado Air Rower as our top for balance of cost and features. Its main frame is made of solidly constructed oblong tubular steel, yet it only weighs 19.5 kg--little enough to easily lug into a cupboard if you so desire. The unit's rowing rail folds for compact storage as well, so it can take up only 120 x 44 x 75 cm of space. The footplates are large, and pivot, which allows for a natural rowing motion. The maximum user weight is 18 stone.
The V-fit Tornado has a six-function display listing calories, scan, stroke counter, stroke rate, total strokes, and elapsed time. Some people used to professional rowing machines may miss a distance meter (you've rowed the equivalent of 4,000 meters, etc.), but this didn't bother us and shouldn't be a concern to most users. Likewise, some will be disappointed that it does not have variable resistance settings--the harder you pull, the harder it will resist, but again, most beginner and intermediate users shouldn't have an issue with this. Believe me, if you row for half an hour you will definitely feel it, in a way that you wouldn't if say cycling. However, if you are very fit, then you'll want to look at a higher end rower like the York R700 Platinum
Prices: The V-fit Tornado Air Rower retails for £299, but you can get it much cheaper on Amazon for around £179.