Bowling may not be the first thing that comes to mind when we’re looking for ways to exercise. In fact, the common imagery is lounging around the waiting area until it’s your turn to go. But if you’re looking for ways to start or continue your fitness journey, you shouldn’t overlook bowling as a healthy hobby. While it’s not as intensive as focused fitness exercises, it can have a surprising amount of benefits for you. The best part about these benefits is that it won’t feel like a workout since you’re playing a game and having fun.
One of the ways bowling can help you get fitter is through the light cardio work it puts on your body. This is especially true for seniors with mobility concerns, since you’re doing much of the moving in short, smooth bursts when you approach the lane to throw the ball. In between these approaches is a rest, meaning seniors with reduced mobility or lowered fitness have a chance to catch their breaths and rest their muscles. So how much movement are you doing? Well, the average distance you’ll be walking is about 29 feet one way (the seating area is about 13 feet long and the approach is usually 16 feet in length). This means you’ll be walking almost 60 feet each round, or about 600 feet in a ten-round game. If the average game takes about ten minutes per person and you’re playing in a group of 6, you could easily play 4 games in an evening. By the end, you’ll have walked nearly a half mile just approaching the line to bowl.
In a 4-game evening of bowling, you could burn between 320 and 400 calories.
Of course, you don’t have to be dealing with mobility challenges to get a fitness benefit from bowling. A Perdue University fitness paper estimated that you walk about 71 steps per minute while bowling. This makes it comparable to climbing downstairs, croquet, housework and more physically taxing than yoga, walking, or chopping and carrying firewood. It may not seem like a lot, but the steps add up. If you’re looking for a pure calorie count, it’s estimated that the average person burns 80-100 calories per 20-minute game. That means in that 4-game evening of bowling, you could burn between 320 and 400 calories.
Beyond cardio, bowling can also give you a bit of strength training. Bowling balls generally weigh between six and 16 pounds. Whenever you pick the ball up or throw it, you’re exercising muscles throughout your arms, back, and legs. And you’re doing this motion repeatedly, roughly 40 times each game between picking the ball up and throwing it. That’s roughly the equivalent of 40 reps of a similar weight dumbbell per game.
Proper bowling form also strengthens your legs by lowering your body into a lunge, which exercises your quads and other leg muscles.
Carrying the ball also strengthens other parts of your body, specifically your legs. The extra weight placed on your leg muscles as you walk and throw the ball are similar to walking with leg weights. Proper bowling form also strengthens your legs by lowering your body into a lunge, which exercises your quads and other leg muscles. The strengthening of your leg muscles also helps improve your balance. In fact, balance is an important part of proper bowling technique, since poor balance can alter your throw.
Bowling can be an incredibly relaxing or fun hobby, especially if you’re spending that time with friends or family. That’s one of its real charms — that it’s a game. If you’re feeling stressed, bowling gives you a fun night out to relieve some of that stress. We’ve previously written about how bad stress can be for your body, so anything that combats that can be good. You can even take the stress relieving ability of your new hobby to the next level by joining a bowling league or establishing a weekly bowling night.
While bowling can be played alone, it is inherently a group game.
Social isolation is a real danger for many seniors, and bowling can be incredibly effective at helping you to avoid that. While bowling can be played alone, it is inherently a group game. Whether you’re playing on teams or in a free-for-all, bowling just isn’t the same if you’re playing by yourself. Even the design of the alleys is catered toward being equal parts playing and socializing, with seats pointing inward toward each other and lots of downtime to socialize. You have a real opportunity to develop comradery if you join a bowling team, as you regularly take on other teams. It’s a great way to make new friends or strengthen old friendships!
● ● ●
The most important lesson you can get out of this article is that when you’re looking to get fitter or healthier, you should reframe how you look at your activities, even ones you may have overlooked. Bowling may not have you running a mile or lifting weights, but it allows you to do a little exercise even when you’re not specifically exercising. Bowling is a sneaky mix of strength training and cardio that you won’t even notice. While you won’t get fit from just bowling, it’s an excellent supplemental hobby on your fitness journey, as long as you’re limiting your trips to the snack bar.