The Surprising Health Benefits of Golfing

August 30, 2011

By Denise Lodge

Health Benefits of GolfImpowerage is starting a new series about activities that are fun and provide health benefits. The subject of the first article in the series is golf. Golf may bring to mind hushed, polite crowds, caddies who do the heavy lifting, and carts that cover the long distances. However, despite being leisurely, and potentially quieter than other sports, golf has a multitude of health benefits.

Health Benefits of Golf

During the 1970s and 1980s, many believed that unless a person’s pulse was raised for at least 20 minutes, exercise was ineffective. The truth is that modestly paced exercise is very helpful, even when interrupted by periods of inactivity.

According to Bauerfeind Performance Center, golf has emotional, mental, and physical health benefits. Emotionally, golf offers enjoyment and a sense of fulfillment, including “the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, the company of friends, and the pleasure of competition.” Golf is also a mental challenge: “Out on the golf course, you need to concentrate fully on technique and motor control to play to the best of your ability.”

Physically, golf is a challenging game “that demands muscular strength, endurance, balance, and coordination.” Hitting the ball, walking the course, and pulling or carrying your clubs all benefit your health. Moreover, golf “enhances bone density, which helps prevent osteoporosis.”

 

One study published by Harvard Medical School tested the effects of golf on 110 sedentary men aged 48 to 64. Half the men played 18 holes of golf two to three times a week, for a 20-week period. The half that golfed lost weight, reduced their abdominal fat, improved their aerobic exercise capacity, increased muscular strength, and boosted their HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels.


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Another study reported by the International Council on Active Aging compared the mortality rate of Swedish Golf Federation members with the nationwide mortality rate. The study showed that golfers had a mortality rate 40 percent lower than non-golfers of the same sex, age, and socioeconomic status. This 40 percent reduction “corresponds to an increase in life expectancy of about 5 years.” Co-author of the study, Professor Anders Ahlbom, reports that “there are also positive social and psychological aspects to the game.”

Golfers Walk 10,000 Steps in One Round

At the 93rd PGA Championship (August 8-14, 2011), Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), the official hospital of the PGA of America, distributed 25,000 pedometers; spectators were encouraged to track their steps as they walked the course, as part of the “Let’s Move on Course!” initiative. HSS’s aim was for “everyone to recognize the health benefits associated with walking the course when they play, and view golf as a lifelong, healthy activity.”

During the PGA Championship, more than two million steps were taken, which is an average of 11,448 steps taken per person, per day. David Donatucci, Director of Fitness for the PGA of America, reported that people were surprised by how quickly the number on their pedometer went up while they enjoyed themselves on the course. A 73-year-old man walked the most steps, with a total of 121,227 for the week, which equates to approximately 96.5 kilometres. The oldest participant in the pedometer-tracked walk was 90 years old.

Nutrition and fitness expert Dr. Pamela Peeke reports that walking 10,000 steps, the equivalent of one round of golf on an 18-hole course, “helps you lose weight, while adding 2,000 steps to your current level […] helps maintain your current weight and stop gaining weight.”

Preventing Golf Injuries

Older GolferAccording to Bauerfeind Performance Center, your body not only expends energy when hitting the ball, but also absorbs feedback vibrations, primarily in “the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your wrist, arm and shoulder.” To avoid injury or strain, Bauerfeind Performance Center recommends warming up before a match, wearing insoles, using golf clubs that match your body type and skill level, and wearing vibration-absorbing golf gloves.

Hospital for Special Surgery also provides some tips to prevent golf injuries:

Ways to Prevent Golf-Related Injuries

  • Warm-ups such as walking, jogging, or low-level calisthenics elevate your core temperature and increase blood flow to muscles.
  • Trunk Exercises that increase your rotation during the backswing allow you to store more energy and generate more speed, which can result in greater distance.
  • Leg and Hip Exercises are important for your swing: the power of the golf swing begins at the hips. Strong, stable hips and thighs help maintain posture and absorb forces from the upper body during the follow-through, reducing the chances of injury.
  • Stretching increases flexibility and reduces the risk of muscle/tendon injuries. Remember to stretch the hamstrings, as tight hamstrings have a negative effect on posture, and increase pressure on the low back. Low back pain is the most common injury for recreational golfers.

Exercise guide It’s Never Too Late to Be Fit by personal trainer, Susan Manning and founder of Impowerage Magazine, Dr. Carolyn Anderson covers strength training, cardiovascular endurance, proper stretching, balance exercises, and other aspects of fitness that can help improve your game. Go to Impowerage.com/fitness to download a copy, order a printed version, or take a sneak peek inside.

Hitting the Links

75-year-old Gary Wiren, Director of Instruction at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida, believes that it is possible to “get stronger and more flexible into your nineties, if you work at it.” He builds fitness into his everyday routine; as he shaves or brushes his teeth, he rises up on his toes to work his calves, tightens his glutes, quads, and stomach, or does squats. Wiren identifies the “last three fingers in your left hand,” those supposed to control the golf club, as the weakest fingers. To strengthen them, he recommends keeping “a hand-gripper around the house.”

Golf and fitness have a reciprocal relationship: golf results in improved fitness, and improved fitness helps your golf score. Whether you are an avid golfer, used to play, or have never played before, golf is fun, and promotes complete health. Check out Golf Canada to find a course, to get a copy of the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s official rules, or for links to provincial associations.

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About The Author: Denise Lodge has a Bachelor of Arts, Honours degree in Professional Writing. She enjoys reading, writing, and travelling.

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