When it comes to fun for the whole family, bowling is undoubtedly one of the more popular activities. Bowling can be an excellent option for birthday celebrations, those looking to join a league or a club, or simply for those seeking a fun weekend outing. We know that bowling is exciting and brings friends together, but does it also have health benefits?
The health benefits of bowling are increased grip strength, coordination, balance, cardiovascular health, improved movement, and mobility. Because of its highly social nature, bowling can also provide mental health benefits, such as reducing depression, social anxiety disorder, and loneliness.
In this article, we will be discussing the possibly surprising health advantages offered by bowling. We will also touch on some of the game’s basic principles and the equipment required for participating. Lastly, we will provide some knowledge and insight regarding injury prevention so that you may stay safe while enjoying the game that you love.
Is Bowling a Good Workout?
Bowling is a great all-around workout, which practically everyone can stand to benefit from. One of the uniquely great things about bowling is that it does not favor any particular traits. This means that anyone can be competitive and reap the many health benefits this sport has to offer, regardless of age, size, or strength.
Bowling also has one distinct advantage over nearly all other forms of exercise, which is the fact that it is fun and competitive and can make the exerciser feel like they are not even working out.
This section will detail these spectacular benefits, some of which you may not have previously considered.
Flexibility plays a critical role in the act of bowling. A bowler’s ability to properly execute an ideal technique depends on their capacity to follow through with a full range of motion when shooting. This requires a great deal of flexibility from the shoulder and the hips, the ankles, the wrist, the fingers, and the torso. Bowling frequently will develop this flexibility over time.
Increasing your flexibility has been known to simultaneously reduce the risk of sustaining an injury during physical activity while also improving technical proficiency.
Grip strength plays a significant role in the sport of bowling. While bowling balls vary in weight, even the lightest balls will still increase your grip strength. When winding up to take your shot, and following through to release, a great deal of motion is put on the ball. This motion demands that the grip work incredibly hard not to let it fly out of the bowler’s hand prematurely.
Studies have shown that not only will grip strength help you immensely in your day to day life, but it is also a strong indicator of overall health, particularly in aging individuals (Source). Muscle mass declines gradually with age unless you take steps to prevent this. Decreasing muscle mass is a good predictor of future health and medical problems.
Balance and Coordination
The act of properly executing a shot in bowling is an extremely complex process. The typical bowler will line up in the lane, take 4-5 steps forward while at the same time winding the ball high up in the air, and then in one powerful motion, reverse the movement and shift their body weight into the shot by torquing their hips. If this sounds difficult, it’s because it is.
Learning to perform a proper shot, like any skill, takes time. However, once you have managed to master this motion, you will immediately find that your coordination has been improved. This will greatly help increase your overall balance and bodily awareness, which is certainly never a bad thing.
Balance is especially important for those of an elderly demographic, as the likelihood of falling and becoming hurt or injured generally increases with age.
The greatest of all health benefits when it comes to bowling is the effect it has on the cardiovascular system, as well as weight loss, which we will discuss later in this article. The advantages gained from improving your cardio health can simply not be overstated.
Of these benefits, the most prominent include:
- Lessened chance of developing type ll diabetes because of an improved sensitivity to insulin
- Lowered cholesterol levels
- Greater overall heart & lung health
- Better blood circulation
- More endurance when performing routine tasks such as walking upstairs and standing on your feet for long periods
- Reduction in body fat percent
- Elimination of hypertension
- Improved sleeping habits
- Increased cardiometabolic health
The last physical benefit which must be mentioned here is core strength. Core strength generally refers to a person’s overall strength. Not only will bowling improve your grip strength, as discussed above, but it will just make you an all-around stronger person.
Repeatedly lifting, carrying, and throwing around heavy bowling balls will directly build strength in the back, the legs, the abdominals, and the entire body from head to toe. This will be most obvious to someone bowling for the first time, who subsequently experiences dull aching muscle pain the following day. Don’t worry; this goes away.
Mental Health Benefits
When the topic of health benefits is brought up in relation to bowling, the natural instinct of most people may be to focus solely on the physical domain; however, all too often overlooked are the great many mental health benefits that can be expected to come along with bowling on a regular basis.
Bowling is quite possibly the most sociable culture of any sport of its kind, and as such is rarely practiced alone. The common arrangement is for people to invite friends and family to share in the entertainment. This is why it is not unusual to find bowling alleys packed full during the weekend. It is mostly planned as a social excursion.
A list highlighting the health benefits of bowling would simply be insufficient if it were not to boast the multitude of mental health benefits.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety can be a crippling phenomenon, making it difficult for a person to even attend a school or a concert without becoming overwhelmed. According to Mental Health America statistics, 15 million American adults suffer from social anxiety, equalling 7% of the entire adult population! This is a staggeringly high number.
Many in this situation will find bowling to be a saving grace. Bowling alleys are divided by separate lanes, each designated for one group or party. This means that sufferers of social anxiety can still participate in the sport, with a small group of close companions, while at the same time being indirectly exposed to a more populated overall setting.
For some, this may, over time, allow them to settle in and become more comfortable and better equip them to manage their anxiety.
Depression is a form of mental health disorder, which can sometimes feel impossible to combat. Hopelessness, aimlessness, low self-esteem, and feelings of sadness can come to dominate individuals suffering from this ailment. Becoming involved with the sport of bowling may just provide some relief for these people.
It is highly likely that as a person’s overall physical health increases, so too will their confidence and self-assurance. Mental and physical health are not mutually exclusive, and improvement in one can often directly carry over to an improvement with the other.
In an article written by Clinical Psychologist Dr. Michael Yapko, he expresses a theory that many who suffer from depression would be well advised to explore non-biological contributors and instead favors an environmental diagnosis (source.) One of the “skills” he claims is essential to combat depression is social skills. This directly relates to the social anxiety prognosis previously mentioned in this article.
Of course, this is not a one size fits all prescription for everyone suffering from depression, but evidence shows that it may perhaps play a vital role in overcoming it.
In today’s fast-paced hustle and bustle society, many people—particularly the elderly—find themselves lonely and face extreme boredom and apathy. For these people, joining a bowling club or a team may exactly be what they need to overcome this.
A bowling league can be a great excuse to get out of the house, meet new people, and improve your health while doing so.
Bowling can also work to combat loneliness by giving people something to look forward to and strive to improve, which will allow them to better themselves in many different aspects of their lives.
Not all bowling leagues are competitive and sport-oriented. Many bowling leagues focus primarily on the social aspect, while the game’s score remains secondary and somewhat irrelevant. Local bowling leagues can be found simply by using Facebook and other social media platforms.
If this sounds like you, find a club and sign up today. Win, lose, or draw; you’ll be glad that you did.
What Are the Different Types of Bowling?
When we speak of bowling, this can refer to a number of different models, as more than one version of the game exists.
The most common form of bowling is known as ten-pin, but some alternatives to this style include nine-pin, five-pin, team bowl, and candlepin bowling, which are also widely popular. These versions usually differ by the number of pins, the type of pins, and the type of ball used to strike them.
Some novelty bowling variations also exist, which provide a fun alternative to the traditional style. These may include bumper bowling and glow in the dark. Novelty bowling is a great option for those looking to introduce newcomers to the game, particularly children, as the visual appeal can act to make the game more exciting.
Ten-Pin Bowling (Wiki) derives its name from the fact that each player’s turn begins with ten pins standing at the end of the lane. This is the most popular style of bowling globally. Ten-pin bowling is oriented to solo competition and not team-based.
Ten-pin bowling is the pinnacle of professional bowling as well, exhibiting over a dozen elite level tournaments annually.
The object of the game is to roll the ball down the lane, and knock down as many of the pins as possible. To do this, each round, the player has two bowls to attempt to knock down the ten pins. If you manage to knock down every pin in your first bowl, this is known as a “strike” and will garner maximum points. However, if you require two bowls to knock down all ten pins, this is called a “spare.”
When a player bowls a strike, they are awarded an automatic 10 points for that frame and given bonus points for the next two bowls they roll, which are subsequently added onto the first frame. For example, if a player bowls a strike, and then on their next two rolls they were to knock down 7 and 2 pins respectively, the 9 pins would be added back onto the first frame giving it 19, and also added again on the second frame, equaling a total of 28 points for the two frames.
If a player bowls a spare, however, only their next one bowl is awarded bonus points. For example, if a player bowls a spare in their first frame, and the next frame bowls a 7 and a 2, the first frame would count as 17, and the second as 9, giving us a score of 26 points for the two frames.
However, if a strike or spare is not achieved, the pins will simply be added up to determine the score for that frame. For example, if a player were to bowl a 5 and a 2 in a given frame, a score of 7 would result.
The tenth and final frame of the match is special in that if you get a strike on the tenth frame, you will receive two more bowls, and if you achieve a spare, you receive a third bowl in the frame. If you fail to get either a strike or spare, you are not granted a third bowl, and the game is over.
The highest final score achievable in bowling is 300. This is known as a perfect game, meaning every frame resulted in a strike, and not a single pin was ever left standing.
The balls used in ten-pin range from 6 to 16 pounds and have three holes to place your thumb, middle, and ring finger. Balls come in different weights, depending on your personal preference. Some may find that they bowl better with a heavy ball, while others might prefer the advantages offered by a more lightweight alternative.
Bowling balls also differ in their distance of finger hole spacing and the width of the holes. Every individual’s hand will be anatomically unique. Some have thicker fingers and others more slender—some have long fingers, while others short, so it is very important to find a ball that is suitably accommodating to your specific need.
Some bowling alleys may offer lanes equipped with bumpers on the sides to render a gutter ball impossible. This is great for new beginners and young children so that they may learn without the added frustration of scoring zeros.
Can You Lose Weight by Bowling?
Bowling is a game that is deceptively taxing on your entire body. Playing an entire ten frames can be exhausting and can give the heart rate a good spike. This is why bowling, when combined with a healthy diet, can yield incredible weight loss results.
The type of exercise in which bowling is categorized is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT is defined by repeated bouts of short burst efforts, followed by rest with a high exertion rate. Comprehensive studies have shown that HIIT style exercise had a direct effect on the reduction of body fat percentage in overweight subjects (source.) HIIT exercise also improves cardiometabolic health, meaning that your body will store less fat and convert it into energy instead.
Moreover, we must also factor in frequency when trying to determine if you can lose weight by bowling. Simply put, the more often you participate in bowling, the more weight loss you will stand to experience.
The best part about bowling to lose weight is that you will be having so much fun, you likely won’t even notice all the work you are putting in. Individuals are more likely to commit to forms of exercise that they do not find boring, monotonous, or labored. This is why bowling may prove to be a better option than more traditional forms of exercise, such as jogging, in the long term.
How Weight Loss Through Bowling Works
Generally speaking, when a person burns more calories than they ingest, this results in weight loss. Bowling on a regular basis will burn an incredible amount of calories, making weight loss noticeably easier. Over time, you can expect to see your body fat percentage decrease and your lean muscle mass increase.
This means that bowling works to aid in weight loss provided that a caloric deficit is being maintained through your diet, and you are eating clean, healthy foods (source.)
Although bowling is a great option for those seeking to reduce their weight, bowling alone will not be sufficient to attain this goal without diet. In order to lose weight, bowling must be combined with a proper diet, as well as other healthy lifestyle practices.
One of the great things about bowling is that bowling does not require a lot of specialized equipment to partake, unlike many other sports. While some more dedicated players may have their personal bowling ball, which they bring with them to the alley, this is not required as bowling alleys will almost always have their own house balls, which you are welcome to use.
The only equipment which is mandatory for bowling is special bowling shoes. Bowling shoes make it easy to slide and pivot on the hardwood and prevent the lane from being scuffed or damaged. Most alleys you visit will have a shoe rental system, which offers many sizes and styles. This is a convenient and cheap option for those who do not own their own pair.
When bowling, always make sure your shoelaces are tied tight, and the laces are secured in a manner that they can not be tripped on. Also, ensure that your shoes are snugly fitted and wear the appropriate size for your foot.
Outdoor shoes are not to be worn when bowling, as doing so may result in equipment damage and injury.
Many stylish options are available online for a great price for those interested in purchasing their pair of bowling shoes. These Brunswick Vapor bowling shoes are a great choice for anyone from the brand new beginner to the sport’s seasoned veteran. Brunswick is a very reputable brand in the bowling world, producing everything from balls to bags to shoes. This means you know you’re getting a product you can trust.
Professional vs. Recreational Bowling
People become involved in the sport of bowling for many different reasons. Some view it as a social activity, an avenue to meet new people and share in memories, and participate casually. In contrast, some people may find that they are attracted to the game’s more competitive sporting element.
As a sport, bowling can be contested at very high levels, governed by official leagues and commissions, such as the Professional Bowlers Association.
The World Bowling Tour is the pinnacle of professional bowling competition. The world bowling tour is a compilation of major events, such as the US Open and the Professional Bowlers Association World Championship.
A bowling tournament requirement to be recognized as and deemed a major is a minimum prize money offering of $200,000! This goes to show that professional bowling is not to be taken lightly.
Over time, bowling can lead to injuries due to the repetition, pattern overload, and the unilateral nature of shooting with the same arm every time. The most common injuries sustained by bowlers include elbow and wrist tendonitis and inflammation, knee injuries, and strained rotator cuffs.
It is important to warm up before beginning, as well as stretch out and cool down after the game, to prevent these injuries from occurring.
Another point that must be mentioned is the importance of hydration. Before beginning a match, always ensure that you are adequately hydrated. Proper hydration allows our muscles to work to the best of their ability and increases our mental alertness, allowing us to perform better strategically.
Studies have shown that performing a proper warm-up prior to physical activity is beneficial because it signals the body to anticipate the stress, which is to follow, reducing the risk of injury (source.) Warming up also increases blood flow and loosens up the joints and muscles. Warm-ups should be performed dynamically, meaning you are not holding stretches statically but actively moving through different motions.
The following chart provides a list of bowling specific warm-ups to loosen the entire body:
|Exercise||Description||Repetitions||Number of Sets|
|Arm Circles||Swing the arms in windmill motions, first clockwise and then anticlockwise||Ten swings in each direction||Three|
|Wrist Rolls||Interlock your fingers, and begin rolling your wrists back and forth||Ten||Three|
|Leg Swings||Holding on to a stable object for support, and swing your legs side to side, one at a time||Ten repetitions each leg||Three|
|Knee Raises||Stand holding a wall for support and raise your heel towards your butt, bending your leg at the knee, then return to the starting position||Perform ten reps slowly, on each leg||Three|
In the unfortunate event that a player does happen to sustain an injury, specific protocols must be followed to minimize the damage and optimize the healing process.
In the immediate moments after an injury occurs, the best thing to do is apply ice to the area where the pain is most strongly felt. Never apply ice directly to the skin, as this may result in an ice burn.
Seek medical attention if the pain is severe, and never attempt to resume participation in the game or push through the pain.
Rest is the most effective way to heal an injury, so taking a temporary break from the sport is the best way to allow your body the time it needs to recover. Returning too soon to bowling can further exacerbate the injury and prolong the recovery process. Always listen to your body, and think in terms of longevity.
When it comes to the amazing health benefits of bowling, the list goes on and on. Regular bowling participation can help reduce body fat percentage and aid in weight loss. It can reduce hypertension, increase cardiometabolic rate, lessen the chance of developing type ll diabetes, strengthen muscles, improve balance, posture, flexibility, etc.
In addition to the multitude of physical benefits you’ll see, bowling can also play a huge role in regulating and improving your mental health. Those suffering from social anxiety disorder and depression can benefit a lot from becoming active in the bowling community due to the sport’s emphasis on sociability.
Always warm up thoroughly before beginning in order to prevent injuries so that you may continue to enjoy this great game for months and years to come, and remember, it’s not whether you win or lose, but how much fun you have in the process.
- NCBI: Grip Strength
- MHANational: Social Anxiety Disorder
- Psychlopaedia: Why Skills Beat Pills When Treating Depression
- Wikipedia: Ten-pin Bowling
- BJSM: Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training
- Wikipedia: Caloric Deficit
- Wikipedia: Professional Bowlers Association
- Wikipedia: World Bowling Tour
- JSAMS: Does Warming up Prevent Injury in Sports?