Rachel Grunwell is a fitness writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Fitness challenge: Tenpin Bowling

Each week intrepid reporter Rachel Grunwell will try out a new form of exercise to bring you the lowdown.

Rachel Grunwell and her son, Lachlan Buckley, 5, swap bowling tips at Pins Lincoln in Henderson. Photo / Getty Images
Rachel Grunwell and her son, Lachlan Buckley, 5, swap bowling tips at Pins Lincoln in Henderson. Photo / Getty Images

What is it? Rolling a bowling ball down a lane to try to score points by knocking down 10 pins. When playing in a group, the bowler who knocks down the most pins by the end of the game wins.

What's needed? Casual gear, socks (bowling shoes are provided).

The experience: This is one of the oldest sports, dating back to the ancient Egyptians of 5200 years ago. Bowling-like gear was found in an Egyptian boy's grave.

Germans claim it as a part of their history, too, from 300AD when they rolled stones at clubs, apparently to free themselves of sins.

If I had lived in 300AD I probably would have been an excellent German bowler (with all those sins to absolve and practise over). However, it's 2012, and I find I suck at the sport. But the ancient ritual still has the power to amuse.

My family meets up with another family at Pins Lincoln to test it as entertainment.

The youngest player among us is 2; the oldest, 44.

To put the kids on a more even playing field, the computer is set to raise side-barriers on the lanes when the kids bowl (so their balls won't go in the gutters or other lanes). The littlest kids also use a metal ramp (for momentum and to better target the pins).

Pins Lincoln owner Stephen Penney gives us pointers, a snapshot of what's taught in the learn-to-bowl classes.

He says choose a coloured ball that best fits your grip (generally, kids use size 6, while bigger hands use a heavier ball). For a first throw aim with your thumb towards the middle arrow that's etched into the bowling lane. From there "think fixed point mathematics" to target pins. Balance is key, too, and when you let the ball go, like a swinging pendulum, you should keep your head still and "follow through" with your arm.

Hope to aim for a strike (all 10 pins down in the first ball), a spare (all 10 down by the second ball) or a turkey (which is three strikes in a row).

Each person gets two throws per 10 frames to knock down pins. You can also get a bonus ball if you hit a strike or spare on the 10th frame.

So we all slip on bowling shoes and get moving, giving it a go.

The music is up, the lights are down and there are pop stars like Kimbra singing on screens overhead. There are whirring balls being rocketed at up to 30km/h down maple wooden lanes to crash into plastic-coated pins.

The kids laugh, sometimes hug or do high-fives, but mostly they loudly spur each bowler on. They lap up every turn, and it's a delight to watch. I overhear 5-year-old Maya tell my same-age son, Lachie, "You did pretty good that time!" when he hit three pins, while Lachie excitedly responds, "Wow, that was a cool one!"

The seven-year-olds, Zach and Eli, watch their efforts wide-eyed, almost willing the balls with their minds to score big.

The dads bowl faster and harder and two-year-old Leon has a high hit rate using the ramp.

The other mum, Natalie, ribbed me that if I want to know what the X means on the scoreboard "It's actually my strike!" She's showing off, of course. But this is a cool part of the game - you are expected to make a song and dance about your success. That's probably why Americans love it so much.

After an hour, I have one more bowl left and someone mentions I have to get only three pins to beat Natalie. But I bumble my throw. She teases me that she plans to revel in her win - and may even get it printed on a T-shirt!

Both Natalie and I laugh some more when we see all the final scores. The kids have trounced the adults, with Zach coming out on top, scoring 94.

But, really, the scores don't matter much because we've all had a "ball".

How much? One game is $12 per adult, student and senior $11, child $10, family (2 adults, 2 kids) $40. There are members' prices and other options such as the family fun time deal. Learn how to bowl classes are on Tuesday nights over seven-week slots.

Worth it? There's not a lot of things that all members of a family can play together, but this may just come up trumps.

Try it: Pins Lincoln, 199 Lincoln Rd, Waitakere, ph 837 1111.

Rating: 9/10

- Herald on Sunday

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