Why do you never recommend bowls as a form of exercise? I appreciate that it is not the most energetic of pastimes but surely all the walking, bending and stretching must be doing some good, and preferable to taking no exercise at all?
I am pretty sure I have recommended bowls as a form of exercise! I certainly agree with you that playing a regular game of bowls is much better than doing no exercise. You are also right to point out the various benefits of the game – and I could add a couple more.
The “bending down” aspect of bowls is particularly useful. The movement is a kind of “lunge”, in which you have to bend both knees to lower yourself down, keeping your back and head relatively straight so you can keep looking ahead as you bowl. If you have mastered that bending down technique, it will help to safeguard your leg strength and give your postural muscles a good workout.
This action will pay dividends whenever you want to get up from a low sofa, weed the garden or retrieve something from under a table. You will suffer less back pain. Perhaps most importantly of all, you will be able to get down on to the floor and up again without worrying about whether you will be stuck there. This is a widespread fear among older people who have lost the strength and the skill to get up and down from the floor.
The “stretching” aspect of bowls gives you similar benefits, stopping you from stiffening up, particularly around the lower back and backs of your thighs.
In addition, bowls requires good balance, a skill that we all tend to lose as we age, but which you can retain with practice or the right kind of activity. Bowls also demands good hand, eye and brain co-ordination, another aspect of fitness that tends to fail with age.
One other great plus: bowls is sociable – and anything that involves having fun with other people on a regular basis as well as keeping fit has to be recommended.
There’s just one major drawback. As you mention, it’s not the most energetic of games. In exercise terms, bowls is not “aerobic”, which means it doesn’t get your heart beating faster or raise your breathing rate much (except for the few seconds when you are preparing to bowl the match-winning wood!). The walking is a bit too leisurely to qualify as aerobic.
If you could organise a brisk 30-minute walk to or from your bowls club, it would allow you to tick off your aerobic exercise quota for the day. But you do need to be doing that same 30 minutes of cardiovascular work every day, so add walking, swimming or cycling to your activity routine. Your extra cardio fitness can only help improve your bowling!