We Tried It: The Ergatta Rower, a Game-Based Fitness Experience Made for the Home

The fitness solution delivers workouts as games, blasts calories, takes up hardly any room and looks surprisingly beautiful

Ergatta rower
Photo: Ergatta

What It Is: Ergatta Rower, an at-home, low-impact rowing experience

Who Tried It: Stephanie Emma Pfeffer, PEOPLE Health writer and editor

Level of Difficulty: 7 out of 10

I never thought a piece of exercise equipment could be considered classy until my trial Ergatta was delivered. The rower is handcrafted out of cherry wood, and has an aesthetic that screams (more like purrs) anti-gym. It wouldn't look right in a sterile athletic club, and therefore it doesn't make your bedroom look like one. Yes, I said bedroom, which is where my rower lives, alongside my Peloton and weight rack. I don't have a big apartment, and I certainly don't have space for a separate home gym, so the fact that the Ergatta was designed exclusively for residential, mixed-use environments was a major selling point for me.

The Ergatta's size is one of its best features. It's footprint was so small: When stored upright, it fit neatly in a 2 by 2 space. While my kids were tempted to touch it when unfolded, they completely forgot about it when it was up against the wall. Yet is still manages to feel stable/safe, like it wouldn't topple over if someone threw a stuffed monkey at it. (Still, do not recommend.)

The actual setup took less than a minute. During the white-glove delivery, we simply unfolded it and plugged it in before turning on the 17-inch display. After signing up for an account ($29.99/month), I answered a few questions to create my profile.

Ergatta provides a full-body, low-impact workout that improves cardiovascular health and increases stamina, according to the company. While I had used rowing machines at the gym before, this was so much smoother, more personal and more pleasant. It was even fun at times. That doesn't mean it was easy — if you've never rowed, trust me when I say it's more intense than it looks. Ergatta's flywheel spins through water, which you never need to empty out or replace, and you increase intensity based on how hard and fast you pull. Ten minutes at a time felt good, 20 minutes left me breathless.

"I wanted a fitness solution that was efficient and effective," Ergatta co-founder and CEO Tom Aulet tells PEOPLE. "It needed to be a complete, intense workout that I could do relatively quickly — with no commute.

Aulet says the average Ergatta workout is 23 minutes. Before starting my first session (of many fewer minutes!), I followed a series of on-screen prompts to allow the machine to gauge my fitness. It calibrates a user's experience when you begin, and then continues to calibrate every 10 workouts. The rower adjusts to your performance, changing your goals and targets as you get better, stronger or even take breaks. That means every user has a unique and personalized experience.

Ergatta also provides real-time feedback and accountability. The rower gave me individualized targets, telling me if I needed to go slower, faster or if I was hitting my goals just right.

Ergatta rower

Workout options include interval workouts that focus on hitting different targets, race workouts where you can compete against other Ergatta users, or open row at your own pace.

Aulet says he was committed to creating an experience that was actually fun. "I don't fill with joy when I'm working out," he admits. "I wanted to make the Ergatta motivating, entertaining, enjoyable and addictive."

He managed to do that by incorporating a competitive, gamified experience that provides an alternative to class- or instructor-based classes. Although pushing digital content to cardio machines is not a new idea (hi Peloton), plenty of people are not into streaming classes or peppy instructors. Ergatta workouts are delivered in the form of games, which makes it appealing to people who like sports, competition, achievement and target attainment.

While I am decidedly not one of those people, I did enjoy not having to pick an instructor or obsess about which personality or music I was in the mood for.

I also appreciated that I could mindlessly hop on and row, either by racing other users at my level (determined by those tests at setup), practice certain skills or even just row through real-life scenic footage of far away places all over the world.

Sometimes I even found it meditative and relaxing. Was it the swish of the water that was so calming? The repetitive movements? The fact that my mind could wander? It surprised me how I could check out mentally but still get in a good workout. I also liked that I didn't have to commit to, say, a 45-minute class. Sometimes I used it to supplement other workouts for just 10 minutes at a time — but I still felt it in my abs the next day.

The Verdict:

If you love fitness classes and find them motivating and entertaining, this might not be exciting enough for you. But if your jam is a more personalized, competitive, gamified experience — and you have 20-30 minutes a day to work hard, are into home workouts, and happen to have $2,199 — the Ergatta Rower is worth considering.

Related Articles