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Pulling for Mental Health

FloatRower™ Partners with Oxford Brookes University and Monkey Fist Adventures for Atlantic Row Research Project

When FloatRower™ was born, one of our driving principles was that it had to be the rowing machine for everyone – and for it to form a key part of any recovery journey to health, physical and mental. As such, we are very proud that FloatRower™ is playing a central role in some ground-breaking research into the effects of exercise on mental health, carried out in partnership by Oxford Brookes University, and some other amazing people we know: Monkey Fist Adventures.

Monkey Fist Adventures was founded by Billy Taylor, Alex Mason and Barry Hayes – three very normal people who had stumbled into extreme adventure, and who were passionate about helping others have the kind of life-changing experiences that they had. Between the three of them, they have six ocean rows under their belts, they have walked, cycled and driven across entire continents many times, climbed some of the highest mountains on the planet, and generally done everything possible to avoid returning to their nemesis: a 9-5! We had a chat with them this week about their next project, the Atlantic Dash, and how it will provide data that has never been gathered before about the effects of outdoor exercise on mental health – as well as the part FloatRower™ has played in achieving it.


What is Monkey Fist Adventures?

We aim to make life-changing adventures more accessible to normal people. We believe that adventure should only be limited by a person’s passion – not by their finances, their peer group, their upbringing, or their job. Our aim is multifaceted: everything from organised events targeted at those that wouldn’t normally think they could do it, to an app that connects the dots, and the people, to create a community of adventurers, helping each other to take on new and exciting things, from rowing an ocean, to learning to surf.

The Atlantic Dash is the name of our latest project, and in February we’re planning to row from Lanzarote to Antigua.

What’s the research project all about?

Whenever we take on an ocean row, we like to use the unique opportunity to do some research. When we crossed the Indian Ocean we took a Parkinson’s sufferer (Robin) with us – after extensive work in the labs and again with Oxford Brookes, Robin was fully prepped, and we eventually started rowing. Once we made it to the other side, some 70 days later, ALL of Robin’s physical symptoms of Parkinson’s had been removed. This has provided some never-before-seen information for Parkinson’s research and sufferers, as well as Robin himself of course.

This time, we are rowing off the back of what is perhaps the worst year for mental health issues in living memory. I’ve suffered significant issues myself, and I lost my Dad to alcoholism at the end of September. Having these very personal stories amongst our team helps us drive forward with what we are passionate about. We already know that exercise helps our mental health, but we want to collect some data around whether or not exercising outdoors is better for your mental health than exercising indoors. We think that it will show that outdoors is better, but this kind of research simply hasn’t been done up to this point.

How will you use FloatRower™?

To compare the effects of exercising indoors and outdoors, we need to baseline the indoors data – and for the first time, FloatRower™ offers us a way of simulating outdoor rowing, to gather accurate data for comparing the indoor exercise effects, with the outdoor rowing we will do on the Atlantic. On 17th December we took two of our Atlantic Dash rowers, Matt Pritchard and Billy Taylor, to the Movement Science Lab at Oxford Brookes for a day of data gathering, through a variety of hi-tech tests - including how oxygen is distributed within in their brains before and during exercise, and how their brains responded to it. The next stage will be a further day of tests in January, including sessions on FloatRower™, and ultimately we'll compare all this data with the results of the same tests we'll do when we’re out on the Atlantic.

We’re delighted that FloatRower™ could be part of this project. As highly experienced extreme rowers, what do you think FloatRower™ can offer the world of indoor rowing that isn’t out there already?

We immediately saw enormous potential in FloatRower™ for so many applications. First of all, there are only a handful of weirdos that think that indoor rowing is great fun. But FloatRower™ well and truly addresses that! The immediate takeaways we saw were that it would train the illusive weaker arm, very easily. It will absolutely hammer your core. But for us, it was all about inclusivity, adaptive rowing, and the support for people with certain illnesses. This is a machine that someone with a missing upper limb can use without twisting their body uncomfortably, and we also see huge application in things like Parkinson’s Disease and Huntington’s Disease. We’re also extremely excited about the kind of metrics that can come out of this – a little like what the Watt Bike did for indoor cycling, we can see exactly how much weaker one side is than the other.

FloatRower™ is a very exciting solution to address the issues with indoor rowing that have existed since indoor rowing began. We’ve spent most of the last decade in and around rowing boats and on rowing machines, and nothing comes close to what FloatRower™ can do.


Massive thanks from us to Oxford Brookes University and Monkey Fist Adventures for inviting us to be part of this. It’s an area very close to all our hearts, and we’re delighted that FloatRower™ has contributed to furthering what we know and understand about mental health – as well as how rowing can improve it. We were excited to discuss some other fields of research that FloatRower™ could be part of with OBU, so watch this space for more collaborations!

We will of course be following Monkey Fist Adventures as they prepare for and embark on their Atlantic Dash in the New Year, so watch out for more blog posts on their progress, and the next stage of this fantastic research project.

Monkey Fist Adventures - Atlantic Dash


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