Step 1: Put down the remote.
If you enjoy the game enough to watch others play, it stands to reason that basketball will be an enjoyable way for you to get cardiovascular exercise.
Scott Cotterman, 32, from Eagan, Minn., never played high school or college basketball but has played recreationally as long as he can remember. He's a big basketball fan, but rather than watch games at a sports bar, he'd prefer to play and devote his time organizing intramural leagues (he's currently the general manager of his Ultimate Hoops team at Life Time Fitness). He strives to exercise every day. "I play ball about four or five days a week because I still love it and it's a fantastic workout."
Step 2: Pick up the basketball.
Despite what you might think about your athletic ability, if you're willing to play, there's a team out there for you.
Onaje "The Contest King" Walker, 32, from Montclair, N.J., said his only basketball experience as a child was shooting balled up socks through a wire hoop in his room. "I wasn't interested in sports growing up," he says. In middle school that changed when classmates picked him (last) to be on a recreational team.
"My plan was to stay away from the ball," Walker recalls. That worked until he found himself wide open and a teammate passed him the ball. He made the shot. "I had an instant love for offense. Who would have known those hours of punishment in my room would pay off?"
Step 3: Get connected.
You might want to begin with those buddies in your pool, whose brackets have no hope anyway, to start a team.
Chris Maher, 27, from Crystal, Minn., played pick-up basketball in college, which is where he met his best friend, Derek. "After Derek and I graduated we would go to Life Time Fitness to work out together," Maher says. "Every Thursday night we would get kicked out of the gym because of-Ultimate-Hoops. After watching the league games a few weeks Derek and I wanted to give it a shot. After the first game we were hooked."
Step 4: Become a basketball celebrity.
When you play in a league like Ultimate Hoops, you may not become a household name but you can become nationally known within the league.
Carlton Weatherby, 28, from St. Louis Park, Minn., played college basketball as a reserve point guard and team captain at Stanford University. "It's pretty cool to be recognized as a top player, even after what I'd consider to be my glory years," Weatherby says. "After a good game I'll send my stats to some of my old teammates who are still playing professionally and tell them 'I still got it.'"
All Ultimate Hoops games are staffed with two referees and two stat keepers that update a national website with a detailed player roster. The site at www.uhlife.com provides weekly power rankings of teams, all-star voting, a "player performance value" based on professional basketball players salaries with comparable stats, and a playoff system modeled after the NCAA tournament.
Step 5: Don't stop playing.
Half the battle of staying fit is finding activity you enjoy. If you have a love for the game, then make basketball your exercise.
"Generally I'm the oldest guy on the court," says Mike "Hat" McCarthy, 39, from Atlanta. "I'm not as quick as I used to be. I just have to adjust my game to where I can make the team more effective." That means he puts in time off the court working out at the gym and eating right.