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Body Watch

Get On a Roll

There's more to bowling than just the satisfaction of knocking down those pesky pins. As some alley regulars can affirm, you can burn calories, reduce stress and, of course, have . . . a ball.


Bowling won't whip you into marathoner shape. But it is considered exercise, as the 5 million league bowlers in the United States (and 116 million abroad) can attest. Among the benefits:

* You burn calories. A 125-pound person burns about 205 calories per hour bowling; a 150-pound person, 245; a 175-pound person, 285. That's about the same amount you'd burn slow dancing or playing golf without a cart.

But since bowling is usually done in a group, alternating activity and rests, figure you need to bowl three hours to get one hour of actual activity, says Dr. Kenneth Cooper, founder and president of the Cooper Aerobics Center, Dallas. (There's less down time, he adds, than in downhill skiing: "We did a study once, and it took about five hours on the slope to get one hour of skiing.")

* You're lifting more than you might think. "In a typical three-game series, a bowler would swing a 12- to 16-pound ball 36 to 63 times, which would be the equivalent of lifting up to nearly half a ton," says Mark Miller of Bowling Headquarters, a Milwaukee-based membership organization.

While that sounds impressive, don't expect a lot in the way of cardiovascular or toning benefits. "You might get some increase in muscle tone in the arm you use for bowling," Cooper says.

* You get rest and relaxation effects--considered an important benefit of exercise programs along with cardiovascular and muscular conditioning.

* You reduce stress. There's something about knocking those pins silly--or even coming close--that dissipates the accumulated aggression, bowlers say.

* Your injury risk is low. Most common are sore thumbs, followed by muscle pulls in the shoulders and back. To reduce risk, find a ball that fits well; stretch beforehand.

* Your eye-hand coordination might improve since the activity requires it for optimal performance.

* You reap the benefits of socializing since few people bowl alone.

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