You know the drill by now.
Regular commenter Curtis:
Pickup hoops and ultimate frisbee don’t resemble sprints in the slightest. C’mon…not even distant cousins.
I’ll leave the frisbee convo for another day and focus on the health benefits of hoops. From healthday.com:
Basketball is good for your heart because it can help you develop cardiovascular endurance and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, he said in a university news release.
The game also helps develop both upper- and lower-body strength. Having strong muscles helps your balance and reduces your risk of falling, Howell said. You’ll also lose fat. Depending on your intensity, you can burn 700 or more calories an hour when playing basketball.
Jumping and other physical demands of basketball help develop and improve bone health, Howell said. The stronger your bones, the less likely they are to break.
Basketball improves hand-eye coordination and helps build spatial awareness, which means your body knows where it is in space and time.
While these are all useful benefits, they’re nothing like sprints. When we’re sprinting, we’re optimizing for bursts of speed and power. Building up our endurance by playing basketball for hours doesn’t provide the same fat burning, muscle building, speed enhancing benefits that a sprint workout does. From fitday.com:
Sprinting provides the body with several benefits that other exercises do not and cannot offer. Some of these benefits include decreasing the body’s ability to store unwanted fat, fat burning and oxidation, increasing the size of cell parts for greater energy storage, lowering blood pressure, increasing bone density and health, and many more.
I should mention, Curtis, that this conversation breaks my heart. I f’ing love basketball. I played pickup hoops every day from age 17 to age 25 (in my off seasons) and, in conjunction with my strength training programs, got in remarkable shape. I don’t have time to play anymore, and, frankly, I know it’s not the ideal training for my body. The banging and pounding doesn’t fit with my recovery philosophies these days. Last summer, I wrote this:
Remember, you’re repairing tissue and building muscle while resting, not while working. Striking a balance between training hard and overtraining is a perpetually challenging task. During my offseasons with the Texas Rangers, I found myself consistently fatigued after long weight training sessions followed by batting practice, sprints later in the day, etc. Now in my late thirties, a more discretionary approach is in order. Losing wellness is never worth the risk.
Because I optimize now for health and well-being rather than pure enjoyment and social activity, I have to choose my workouts with an eye on what will help me stay strong and at my peak, mentally and physically. Basketball falls into that “pure enjoyment” category, and while it has its place, from a pure fitness standpoint, sprints stand alone.