What’s the Secret to Longevity? It May Be GolfPhysical exercise
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Golf is a sport that is enjoyed by millions of people worldwide. About 25 million Americans play this sport. I have been playing golf for nearly twenty years. I love the sport. It is an activity that has kept me both physically and mentally fit. It is engaging and taught me humility, patience, discipline, perseverance and the ability to focus on improving my thinking in order to be successful both at the sport and life.
And although golf requires physical effort, I’ve heard some people say golf is not really a form of exercise, because you do not move fast and it is not rigorous. Well, research suggests that not only is golf a great form of exercise, but it also may reduce the risk of several diseases and help you live a longer life regardless of your age or gender.
Researchers at The University of Edinburgh conducted a study in 2016 that explored the possible health benefits of golf. They reviewed nearly 5,000 studies about golf, and the information they compiled may turn you into a golfer if you are not one already. In the game of golf, age is nothing but a number and the study showed physical gains with golf increased with age.
“We know that the moderate physical activity that golf provides increases life expectancy, has mental health benefits, and can help prevent and treat more than 40 major chronic diseases such as heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, breast and colon cancer,” said Dr. Andrew Murray, one of the lead researchers in the study. “Evidence suggests golfers live longer than non-golfers, enjoying improvements in cholesterol levels, body composition, wellness, self-esteem and self-worth. Given that the sport can be played by the very young to the very old, this demonstrates a wide variety of health benefits for people of all ages.”
Doctors at Harvard also support that golf may be very good for heart health. “Golf can be good for your health and safe for your heart. These health benefits don't come from swinging your club, but from walking. Walking an average course for a round of golf can be as much as four miles. If you walk 18 holes three to five times a week, you'll get an optimal amount of endurance exercise for your heart,” reports Harvard Health.
The Edinburgh study found that golfers usually burn around a minimum of 500 calories over 18 holes, and if you walk the course you are likely to walk four to eight miles. If you carry your clubs, you will burn even more calories. Even riding a golf cart is better than doing nothing.
Walking has great benefits for you health. It may even help reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, according to the National Institute on Aging (a branch of the NIH). This institute says research has shown exercise can stimulate the brain’s ability to maintain old network connections and make new ones that are vital to healthy cognition.
“In a year-long study, 65 older people exercised daily, doing either an aerobic exercise program of walking for 40 minutes or a nonaerobic program of stretching and toning exercises. At the end of the trial, the walking group showed improved connectivity in the part of the brain engaged in daydreaming, envisioning the future, and recalling the past,” NIH reports.
A 2008 study from the Swedish medical university, Karolinska Institute, also suggests golf may help people live longer. This study looked at data from 300,000 Swedish golfers. Researchers found that the death rate amongst the golfers was 40 percent lower than people who did not golf. This equaled an increased life expectancy of five years!
Possibly adding five years to your life is definitely an invaluable reason to pick up some clubs and head to the golf course. I greatly enjoy how relaxing golf makes me feel as well as the other mental health benefits. But I enjoy these things even more now, because I know how much golf benefits my physical health as well. After all, the mind and body are connected.
Fun fact? Did you know golf is the only sport that has been played on the moon? Yes, Alan Shepard hit two golf balls while he was on the moon in February of 1971.
Talk to your doctor if you want to play golf but are concerned about any back issues or existing injuries. The good news is golf is actually a low risk injury sport that is easy on the joints. Take the whole family golfing, or instead of going to happy hour head to the golf course with friends to swing at some balls instead of swigging back cocktails. Or you might prefer to have a cocktail after a round of golf at the nineteenth hole. Your health and your waistline will thank you.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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