If you’re one of the millions of Netflix viewers that’s tuned in to binge-watch The Last Dance, there’s a good chance you’ll have felt exhausted just watching a sweat-drenched Michael Jordan and the iconic 1990s Chicago Bulls team shoot for a sixth NBA title in eight seasons.
The 10-part docuseries, co-produced by ESPN, delves into the legacy of the team and the backstage politics between players and management, but what really becomes apparent is just how physically demanding this sport is.
From explosively jumping to dunk the ball in the net, furiously dribbling through the opposing team’s defence and constantly shadowing other players’ attack strategies, a 48-minute basketball game is a full-body workout that requires incredible amounts of stamina and endurance.
If you’re looking for a high-intensity sport to cross-train with, basketball is a fantastic cardio addition to any strength programme – and The Last Dance is a great watch for getting yourself in the mood for shooting some hoops.
Here are some of the key benefits to giving this sport a try…
1. It’s a mean cardiovascular workout
A competitive game of basketball involves frequent bursts of high-intensity movement in all directions. Players are challenged to move the ball from one end of the court to the other, which involves significant amounts of jumping, sprinting and quick, lateral movement to outsmart their opponents.
Because of its aerobic nature, basketball is a great cardiovascular workout for the heart, building endurance and reducing the risks of heart disease and stroke.
In fact, a study published in the journal Science Direct, in which researchers monitored 35 untrained men who played street basketball for three months, found that the sport increased VO2 max and performance capacity, as well as lean body mass and bone mineral density.
2. It tests your mental coordination
Player decisions and strategy are just as important as physical skill when it comes to winning a game of basketball. The fast-paced nature of the sport means you’re constantly having to think on your toes and make calculated assessments on the spot, often while another player attempts to force the shot out of your hand.
Like any competitive team sport, there are all manner of formations and tactics to help you get the edge over your opponent and search for cracks in their defence. The chess-like nature of the game means it’s a fierce workout for your brain, as well as your body.
3. It provides full-body toning
There’s a reason why basketball players like Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman all had incredible physiques at the height of their careers at the Chicago Bulls.
The physical demands of the sport are particularly good for developing lean muscle across the entire body.
Abs, lower back, deltoids, traps and legs are all being worked in tandem as you sprint and squat – plus your arms, hands and wrists get a good workout too, as you work to dribble and pass the ball.
4. It’s a major calorie burn
Basketball is an incredibly efficient way to burn calories and keep your metabolism stoked, and the competitive nature of the sport means you often don’t realise how hard you’re working. According to fitness calculator MyFitnessPal a person weighing 68kg can expert to burn around 400 calories in a 45 minute session.
As well as all-out sprints, plyometric exercises like jumping for the hoop exert your muscles’ maximum force in short intervals of time, providing a vigorous fat-burning workout.
5. It’s good for your bones
Playing sports like basketball can lead to better bone mass, structure and strength overall.
Much like muscles, bone is a living tissue, and it can be strengthened in response to the forces placed upon it.
Regular exercise is a great way to improve your bone density and safeguard your body from the risk of breaks and bone diseases like osteoporosis later in life.
Playing it safe
If you’re new to the sport, practising free-throws, dribbling sprints and passes (with a member of your household) is a good place to start, before moving on to team play whenever restrictions are lifted.
It’s always a good idea to warm up and stretch to avoid injury. A good warm up should raise your heart rate and incorporate some basic drills to activate your muscles and wake up your body gently.