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Bowling balls striking down pins
Read Time 10 min

Strike out Parkinson’s

Improving balance, gait, focus, cognition and stamina are just a few ways knocking down pins can help strike out Parkinson’s disease.

Life with Parkinson’s can be balancing act in more ways than one, but in this instance, we’re talking about the motor symptoms. Subtle balance issues, such as slow turning or jerkiness in movement, can be detected as early as the time of diagnosis.

The effects of bradykinesia, rigidity, impaired proprioception and freezing of gait all play a role in balance and fall prevention. In other words, doing activities that challenge and ultimately improve your balance can help other PD symptoms and slow down the progression of your symptoms.

Bowling is one of those activities.

Something you see often in physical therapy appointments, as well as BGF’s fitness videos, are big, exaggerated movements to address limb mobility. We’re talking about those big arm swings and taking careful, purposeful steps. Those happen to be two key components for bowling a perfect game.

Here are some other ways bowling improves Parkinson’s symptoms.

Bowling improves mental focus and cognition.

Fitness is the best medicine for Parkinson’s disease because it forces you to keep the communication lines between your brain and the rest of your body parts going strong. While it may not be the most high-endurance sport out there, bowling does require mental focus in order to play the game strategically.

For instance, have you ever noticed that when it’s your turn to play and you go to grab your ball, suddenly everything around you becomes quiet? That’s because you are in the zone. You have tuned everything else out so that you can mentally prepare yourself to knock down as many pins as possible. When your brain tells you to walk toward the lane and swing your arm, you do exactly what it says and hope for a strike.

Bowling works all the joints.

Trust us, after a few rounds of hurling a 16-pound ball down a bowling lane, you’ll start to feel it in your wrists, ankles, knees and shoulders. That’s a good thing because it means you’re getting a solid workout! However, if your joints start to feel uncomfortable, try switching to a lighter ball.

If they go from feeling slightly uncomfortable to downright aching, that’s probably your cue to call it a day. When you have Parkinson’s and already struggle with stiff joints, doing activities like bowling can help keep your joints flexible and mobile. But you also have to be extra careful not to overexert them.

Bowling challenges your stamina.

Those who think bowling is an easy sport have probably never played in a league. A bowling league night usually consists of three games. A game of bowling equals 10 frames. In each frame, the bowler has two chances to knock down as many pins as possible with their ball.

So, when you do the math, that is 20 turns per game – 60 turns if you’re playing a league night. Strategically flinging a hefty bowling ball down a narrow lane 60 times will wear anyone out—let alone someone with Parkinson’s. Whether it’s three games, two games or half of one game, bowl for however long you want to, dang it. Nobody’s there to judge.

Bowling keeps you social.

At the end of the day, bowling is a social sport. It’s fun. It gets you out of the house for a few hours. It’s a great way to spend quality time with your friends, family, coworkers or perhaps even the random strangers in the next lane who also loved the bowling scene in “The Big Lebowski.”

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you wind up with a high score. It’s natural to get into the spirit of competition but not to the point that it takes the fun out of the sport. If you start to feel down, just look down. Everyone, including you, is wearing a pair of bowling shoes, and we can all agree those are some goofy-looking shoes.

Bowl for the Brian Grant Foundation!

Your love of bowling can be a fun way to help support our Parkinson’s programs. Talk to you local bowling alley about the possibility of hosting a fundraiser and get in touch with us at!

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