Truth be told, ten pin bowling isn’t the most healthy of sports, traditionally. At least it’s never been portrayed as being such. For instance, in movies like “The Big Lebowski” you see overweight bowlers drinking beer and smoking cigarettes during the game. In between, they’re downing fatty French fries and chemical ridden hot dogs. How healthy is that? Not very, you say, and you’d be right. But contrary to how Hollywood and TV portrays bowling, it actually is a sport (and will be an Olympic one in London 2012, by the way), so there must be something healthy about ten pin bowling. Let’s see what those things are.
Weight Lifting plus Tai Chi?
Just think about it for a moment – isn’t bowling just that; a combination of weight lifting and Tai Chi? There you are, on the lane, holding a ball that weighs anywhere between 8 and 16 lbs – that’s between 3 and 7 kilos. With that weight, you have to swing the ball behind you and then swing up to roll it down the lane. Plus, you have to exert enough energy for it the ball to reach enough speed so it can make it all the way down the lane to hit the pins. The faster you can make the ball go down the lane, the more energy you’ll be expending and the better chance you’ll have of making a strike. The swinging part while holding that amount of weight is a type of weight lifting, and will most certainly build muscles in your arm. But its more than just weight lifting since the effort to roll the ball actually adds resistance training. Mind you, your throwing arm may end up being stronger than your other arm, but that type of asymmetric muscle building happens in many other sports, as well. (And if you own your own ball, like the best spare bowling ball, you can always work on the other arm, at home.)
As for the Tai Chi part, a bowler who learns how to throw properly has to have total control over their whole body. With their first step down the approach they need to move the ball out in front of them. Then as they take their next steps, they move the ball down and behind them as their other arm moves out to the side to stabilize them as they bend their torso while keeping their back straight at the same time. Next, as they go to roll the ball, they have to slide with one foot while the other one moves behind them, leaving room for the swing. After they release the ball, their throwing arm must move upwards while the other arm reaches out to the side, to help keep their shoulders level. Once the ball is moving down the lane, most bowlers will stay in that position until the ball reaches the pins. If that isn’t a type of Tai Chi movement, I don’t know what is!
From someone who’s been bowling in a league since 2003, I can tell you that by the end of a league match or tournament, I’m pretty wiped out, so I’m certainly burning calories as I bowl. In fact, while bowling doesn’t burn off huge amounts of calories, sites on the Internet say you burn between 180 and 210 calories per hour (assuming a body weight of: 70 kg or 155 lbs) while bowling. Three games with two other players will take up to two hours of play time, and statistics I’ve seen show that adding only an extra 30 minutes of bowling to that first hour will raise that calorie count to more than double. So while this won’t burn as many calories as other sports, it should at the very least, let you drink a whole can of regular coca-cola without gaining any weight.
Avoiding the Unhealthy Parts
As mentioned above, bowling alleys have always been portrayed as a den of sin when it comes to unhealthy snacks and habits. While you can’t smoke in most bowling alleys these days, the lure of a beer or some greasy food is always standing behind you like the devil incarnate. But there’s nothing that says you have to partake of these nasty indulgences. You can always buy water instead of the beer or fizzy drinks, and that’s always a good thing to have whenever you participate in any sport. If you’re worried about the fries and other things, why not bring some cut up vegetables with you to your games. If the alley doesn’t allow you to bring your own food in, you can insist that they put things like that on their menus. Surely if customers make that demand, the alleys will comply in order not to lose business.
In short, while ten pin bowling isn’t the greatest type of exercise, it is a sport that – if played regularly – will help you gain a certain amount of muscle tone, while burning some calories. What’s more, it gets you out of the house and off the couch, and that’s got to be considered a healthy benefit to enjoying one of the most fun games around. So go on, get out there and start knocking them down!