If you hate the gym try playing basketball instead to improve your cardio and build lower body strength, a physical therapist says
- Playing basketball can be an efficient way to exercise, according to physical therapist Dr. Gabe Ignacio.
- He said basketball uniquely targets two essential aspects of our cardiovascular fitness.
If you hate the gym, playing a sport like basketball instead is a great way to workout, according to a physical therapist who works with people who play the sport.
Dr. Gabe Ignacio, co-founder of The Basketball Doctors rehab and training center in Los Angeles, told Insider that basketball is an intense cardiovascular workout, which will also help build lower body strength and coordination in a way that can rival a gym session.
Playing basketball can be more efficient than going to the gym, because it challenges the body in a number of ways. He said that while jogging, weightlifting, and sprints have to be broken up at the gym, basketball allows you to get similar results from one activity.
He said the most important part of building an exercise routine is doing something that you enjoy, and playing basketball can be an effective way to get consistent exercise.
Ignacio told Insider about the benefits of a basketball workout.
Basketball is both an aerobic and anaerobic cardiovascular exercise
Ignacio said that basketball is a great sport for your cardiovascular health, because it has elements of both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise, he said, is an exercise where your body uses oxygen to power your muscles, whereas anaerobic uses sugar in the body called glucose for energy.
He said the difference between the two is seen in an endurance sport like long-distance running and a more explosive sport like sprinting.
Basketball is unique, Ignacio said, because it requires both endurance and explosive power. Players are constantly moving, but they also need to be able switch directions, sprint, and jump very quickly, he said.
A recent study suggests that a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training — an anaerobic exercise — could help you live longer.
Depending on your exercise goals, Ignacio said the combination of these two kinds of exercise in one activity might make basketball a more efficient workout than an average gym session.
Basketball is a great lower body exercise, especially for your quads
While basketball works out your whole body, Ignacio said it's about a 70/30 split between your lower and upper body. He said the running and jumping in basketball targets your calves, glutes, abs, and particularly your quad muscles on the front of your thighs.
He said basketball's quick movements requires players to bend more at their knees rather than their hips, which puts more pressure on the quads.
"When you don't sit that far deep into your hip, you don't get to use your big glute muscle, you use more of your quad muscle, and that allows you to be quicker and jump off the ground faster," he said.
Overall, he said, playing basketball is a great way to build explosive power in your lower body.
Basketball builds tendon and bone strength
Ignacio said the jumping required in basketball also helps build tendon and bone strength. Older people are often given jumping exercises, he said, to strengthen their bones and tendons.
He said the reason is due to a concept called Wolff's Law, which is the idea that bones will strengthen from heavier and heavier loads placed on them. Jumping and landing properly, he said, provides a steady force throughout the body that your bones, tendons, and ligaments will adapt to over time and strengthen.
For those worried about basketball damaging their joints, Ignacio said that aside from sudden injury to a joint, basketball can actually be beneficial for joint health.
"Early on as we age and develop, it can actually be really good for our joints because it builds that adaptation and durability and all of our muscles around the joints," he said.
Basketball develops coordination throughout the body
Ignacio said that basketball is also a great way to build general muscle coordination. He said good hand-eye coordination is required to dribble, pass, and shoot the ball successfully.
Basketball also develops general neuromuscular coordination throughout the body, which is your body's ability to unconsciously move your muscles in-sync and effectively, he said.
The difference between someone that looks "athletic" when they move versus someone who doesn't look athletic is due to their neuromuscular coordination, he said.
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