Is bowls a good kind of exercise to do?

Jane mugshot for JQAWhy 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!

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