Introducing the Adapted Rowing Machine (AROW)

Rowing machines provide users a great way to get cardiovascular exercise and help build strength. While standard rowing machines for gym facilities or home use are widely available, they don’t address the seating and positioning needs of people with spinal cord injuries and other mobility impairments.

This project aimed to develop adaptations that allow commercially available rowing machines to be used by wheelchair users, thus making rowing an accessible, effective, and enjoyable exercise for people with spinal cord injury and other disabilities.   

The project involved a collaboration between researchers at SFU, UBC, BCIT, and ICORD, and was funded by the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation.

Our design process

We talked to wheelchair users and others involved in adapted rowing to get a better understanding of the needs and challenges with this exercise (see results). Based on this information, we developed a series of prototypes, which were then shared with potential end users for feedback.  We have now built a number of prototypes which have been installed in community gyms across BC (see locations).  As part of this project we have also compiled resources that may be of interest to people with spinal cord injuries who want to start rowing on an ergometer.  We are making design plans available for those who want to build adapters for themselves.

How does rowing on the AROW compare?

We conducted a study to compare the energetic and physiologic impact of rowing on the AROW with using a standard arm crank in people with spinal cord injury or disease. Learn more here.

For further information about this project, contact Carolyn SparreyBonita Sawatzky, Jaimie Borisoff.

For more information about adapted rowing in BC, please visit the Para Rowing group at Rowing British Columbia BC Adapted Rowing