11 Benefits of Golf for Your Health

11 Benefits of Golf for Your Health

Golf has become one of the most popular sports in the world and continues to grow. The National Golf Foundation reports that in the United States alone, 41.1 million people golf annually—up from 32 million in 2016. Part of this popularity could be due to the fact that anyone can participate. Also, though the sport is played at a leisurely pace and allows people to take in the scenery and talk with friends, there is a lot of walking involved.

According to the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA), the average course is just over four miles. That means if you’re playing golf twice a week for six months and walking the course, you are getting in about 192 miles just on the golf course alone—and this does not include the other exercise you get from swinging your club, carrying your bag, and putting.

This amount of exercise translates to a number of potential health benefits. Research has shown that golf can improve everything from heart health and blood pressure to balance and stability.

Countless studies have connected golf to improved heart health, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and lowered blood pressure. Newer research has found that it may also be more beneficial than a traditional walk or even Nordic walking (walking with poles) for people 65 and older.

While all three forms of exercise lowered blood pressure and reduced blood sugar, golf was more beneficial. This may be because golf takes longer and requires more energy.

Because golf requires good posture and body control to swing the club, researchers believe it may also improve balance—especially considering how many times people must swing or putt during a game of golf. These skills are particularly important for older adults.

One study found that people aged 65-79 who played golf had better balance and grip strength than non-golfers. These are important factors in improving overall health and preventing falls.

Having high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other chronic health problems, especially since fatty deposits can build up in your arteries. When this happens, these deposits can slow or even block blood flow to your heart, brain, and other vital organs. 

Although research is limited, playing golf might increase your HDL (good cholesterol) and lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol. Achieving a balance between the two is important for preventing heart attack and stroke.

People of all ages need outlets for socializing and making social connections. It can help combat loneliness and promote overall well-being—and it may help them live longer. People who have larger and more diverse connections with other people tend to live longer. They also have better mental health than people with fewer relationships.

Golf is also a sport that fosters socialization due to its leisurely pace and length of playing time.

As people age, their bone mineral density and bone strength can decrease, especially if they are inactive. This can lead to injuries, falls, reduced strength, and conditions like osteoporosis (lower bone density).

Taking up a sport like golf may improve bone strength. One study found that people who golf, as well as those who caddy, have improved bone mineral density, strength, and stiffness indexes. A stiffness index measures bone strength and density.

Sitting for prolonged periods of time, especially as you age, can lead to stiffness—especially as your cartilage thins. Increased movement, like in golf, can keep joints functioning as they should. Just one hour of movement each week can reduce the risk of disability due to joint issues. 

With golf, a game can last anywhere from 2-4 hours, depending on how many holes you play. It can help you to achieve your movement goals and improve joint health. Golfing can also help promote better hip function, especially after surgery.

Some experts estimate that a 155-pound person carrying their clubs on a golf course can expect to burn about 198 calories in 30 minutes. Considering that nine holes of golf usually last 2-2.5 hours and 18 holes last 4-4.5 hours, golfers tend to burn a number of calories in one outing.

A 155-pound person playing nine holes could potentially burn 891 calories playing nine holes and 1,782 calories playing 18 holes. Golf can affect body composition markers such as lean and fat mass, though it may not impact body mass index (BMI).

Playing sports is often a great way to build self-esteem and self-confidence and develop a sense of empowerment. People build confidence in their abilities, and learning to master, or at least improve at, something challenging can provide them with a sense of accomplishment.

Regular participation in golf can improve self-esteem, self-worth, and self-efficacy.

Exercise, like golf, is known to improve mood and can potentially prevent depression and alleviate anxiety. One review found that regular physical activity relieves stress, decreases anxiety, and reduces symptoms of depression. Plus, the time spent outside can boost mood as well reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Research has consistently shown that getting regular physical exercise like you do with golfing can protect your cognitive health. One systematic review and meta-analysis found that consistent physical activity can protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

Research has also found that golf could potentially be a dementia-inclusive activity for people already experiencing cognitive decline.

Being sedentary and sitting for large portions of a time can decrease life expectancy, while staying physically active, no matter the sport, can promote longevity and increase a person’s lifespan—especially because of its effect on heart health.

Playing golf can be one way to ensure you move regularly. An older study found that people who play golf regularly typically live five years longer than those who do not.

If you’re interested in golf, it’s best to start with a few lessons from a professional golfer in your community who can work with you on your full swing, putting, and short game. You can usually find individual and group lessons depending on your preference and budget.

Then, take what you’ve learned and practice. Go to the driving range, practice putting, and work on your swing.

You can also play “executive courses,” which are more compact than more traditional courses. These nine-hole courses usually have a lot of par threes and shorter yardage to contend with. They’re a great place for beginners because there is less pressure and lower fees. Just be sure to go during non-peak hours, so you may practice without feeling pressured by other golfers.

It’s also important to know the rules of the game and brush up on some golf etiquette. According to experts, people will care less about your swing than they will your etiquette. Watch the Golf Channel, read golf magazines, and look for YouTube videos that will fill you in on the dos and don’ts of golfing.

Most importantly, keep trying and keep learning. Golf is not easy to master, but it can be a great way to exercise and meet new people.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, more than 50% of all golfers are at risk of suffering a musculoskeletal injury during their lifetime. People often experience overuse injuries that can lead to hand tenderness or numbness, shoulder pain, and knee pain.

It’s also not uncommon to experience golfer’s elbow, tendinitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome. However, most overuse injuries result in low back injuries, which account for 34% of all golf injuries.

Improving your technique and developing a regimen of stretching and strengthening exercises can help you prevent these injuries.

Strengthening Exercises

The following exercises will help build strength and reduce the likelihood of injuries. Do these exercises every other day:

  • Squeeze a tennis ball or stress ball for five minutes at a time to strengthen your forearms.
  • Use lightweight dumbbells to perform wrist curls and reverse wrist curls three times a week to build your wrist strength
  • Place a resistance band on an open door and perform pull-downs to help strengthen your shoulders and back
  • Perform planks and side planks to build your core muscles
  • Do squats to strengthen your lower body, possibly using a chair as your guide and for more stability: Bend your knees and push your hips back as if sitting in the chair, but stop before your glutes touch, then rise back up

Stretching Exercises

Ideally, try to do some stretching every day. Here are some stretches to incorporate into your routine. Try to do these stretches each 2-3 times holding them for a minimum of 20 seconds:

  • Perform trunk rotation stretches by lying flat on the ground and rotating both knees to one side while keeping your shoulders flat on the floor
  • Perform arm swings by slowly rotating your arms forward and backward
  • Do hamstring stretches by leaning forward at the waist and keeping your knees straight

Other Tips

Accidents are possible on the golf course, so take precautions and be aware of your surroundings. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep your feet inside the cart to avoid getting them caught under the cart when it’s moving and breaking bones in your foot or ankle
  • Be aware of others on the course to avoid getting hit with a golf ball (or even a cart) and sustaining a soft tissue injury
  • Avoid lightning strikes by seeking shelter at the first sign of a thunderstorm
  • Stay hydrated and replenish your fluids before you get thirsty to avoid dehydration

Golf is a low-impact sport that can boost your health and well-being in several ways. It builds your cardiovascular strength, boosts your mood, promotes balance and flexibility, and even improves your cholesterol.

That said, it is not uncommon to experience injuries while golfing, particularly if you golf regularly. To prevent repetitive or overuse injuries as well as strains, make sure you implement a good stretching and strengthening regimen. A certified personal trainer (CPT) can help you develop a program that fits your needs if you’re unsure where to start.

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