Is Golf Good for Your Health?
The answer is a resounding YES!
This is great news for those of you looking to negotiate with your boss, your wife, or your parole officer. It’s also great news for your body.
Let’s face it, most forms of exercise aren’t that enjoyable or become increasingly difficult as you get older. Golf is one of the few exceptions to the rule, and the more you play, the more your body will thank you.
Below I’ve summarized some of the key reasons why you should make golf a regular part of your schedule.
For hundreds of years, fresh air has been prescribed as an important component to health and wellness. Since golf courses primarily exist outdoors, playing golf and breathing fresh air provides numerous tangible health benefits.
You don’t need to be a medical expert to recognize that staying cooped up inside, especially around others, leaves you exposed to all sorts of germs. It also leads to pent up frustration, since humans weren’t meant to sit inside all day and not all humans are fun to be around.
Research shows that fresh air also leads to increased energy for most people.
Golf is an easy way to get outside, breathe some fresh air, and have fun at the same time.
Exposure to Sunlight
Humans obtain most of their vitamins from what they eat and drink, but vitamin D is unique in that it can be obtained by photosynthesis. In other words, when you step outside and catch some rays, you’re doing your body a big favor.
Vitamin D has been labeled a “wonder drug” by some. Here’s why:
- It regulates the amount of calcium and phosphorus in the blood
- It regulates the growth of skin cells
- It promotes bone growth
- It reduces inflammation
- It reduces the risk of respiratory infections
- It may help increase muscle strength
- It may reduce the risk of certain cancers (especially colon cancer)
If you underestimate the importance of getting sun or you’re not sure about the link between vitamin D and your health, you need to read over this material from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
When you golf, you get plenty of sunlight, especially if you choose to walk the course instead of sitting under a golf cart canopy. In turn, you help your body get more Vitamin D.
To summarize: More sun means more vitamin D, and more vitamin D means improved health.
Does it get much easier than that?
Good Exercise without the Hassle
The first two health benefits of golf — fresh air and exposure to sunlight — are benefits that you could easily get from other activities (sitting on your porch, going to the beach, etc.).
The third health benefit is more specific to golf. Golf is an easy way to burn calories and increase your heart rate.
Let’s face it: running on a treadmill or pining away on some elliptical machine isn’t an activity that most human beings look forward to. But playing 9 or 18 holes of golf can be fun and promote the cardiovascular health without the monotony.
Skeptical of these claims? Consider these numbers:
- Walking 18 holes of golf can help you burn more than 1,000 calories.
- If you’re playing golf several times a week, you’re walking anywhere from 5 to 10 miles weekly
- In Sweden, the death rate for golfers is 40% lower than for other people of the same sex, age and socioeconomic status (based on this Swedish study). This percentage equates to a 5 year increase in life expectancy.
Professor Anders Ahlbom had this to say about golf: “A round of golf means being outside for four or five hours, walking at a fast pace for six to seven kilometres [3 to 4 miles], something which is known to be good for the health…”
Need more specifics?
Neil Wolkodoff of the Rose Center for Health and Sports Sciences conducted some research to determine roughly how many calories a golfer burns in a typical 9 hole round. He discovered that golfers who:
- Walk and carry their own bag burn 721 calories
- Use a pull cart burn 718 calories
- Use a caddie burn 613 calories
- Ride a golf cart burn 411 calories
With these numbers in mind, you can easily burn 2,500 calories a week and significantly reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, etc. Best of all, you get to have some fun at the same time.
Golf promotes an active lifestyle without overburdening the participant.
And a side note: If you’re a bad golfer, take cheer: you’re burning more calories and boosting that heart rate to an even greater extent. Your game may be lacking, but your body will reap the reward.
Stress is something that plagues way too many people. Stress can lead to a number of serious health problems, so if you know you’re stressed, now’s the time to alleviate some stress by adding golf to your schedule.
A quick personal story here: I manage a weekly golf league in the spring and the fall. Most of the teams are composed of working class (blue and white collar) participants. You’d be amazed at how many golfers call League Night the highlight of their week. Regardless of what’s going on at work (and some of their jobs are stress-inducing), this time of fresh air and competition with friends lifts their spirits.
Why is this the case? Once again, there’s some real science behind the health benefits of golf. A few highlights:
- The color green, which you’re surrounded by when you play golf, is linked to a relaxed or refreshed state of mind
- The scent of flowers promotes relaxation (see this Texas A&M article)
- The scent of freshly-cut grass relieves stress and promotes happiness (see this Telegraph article)
- Playing a round of golf can release endorphins, the morphine-like chemicals released by our brains that trigger positive feelings and reduced pain.
I could take the list further, but I think I’ve stressed the point enough (pun intended).
The activity of golf, if you don’t take it too seriously, will reduce your stress levels and increase your quality of life.
Consider all the skills that golf requires, even as a beginner.
The quick list:
- Hand eye coordination
- Swing mechanics and adjustments
- Proper club selection
- Strategic shot approach
- Scorekeeping and other math
All of these activities improve connections between nerve cells and stimulate blood circulation in the brain. It’s hard to put your mind in these situations while you’re sitting on the couch.
The mental activity and physical activity of golf is good for your brain and may help reduce the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
When you take part in weight bearing exercises like walking a golf course and carrying your clubs, you increase lean muscle mass which helps strengthen your bone structure. This regular activity also promotes bone renewal.
Niki Gonty, a nurse advisor for the National Osteoporosis Society of the UK said: “Playing golf with its brisk walking and swinging action can help build strong bones and help guard against osteoporosis, a condition that makes bones more fragile and more likely to break.”
How many enjoyable weight bearing activities can you think of?
Your quality of sleep is pretty important, and regular exercise enhances the positive attributes of sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation highlights that “People sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week.”
This is based on a study published in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity.
Walk a golf course several days a week and you’ll clear those physical activity guidelines with flying colors.
I’m fairly confident that the exercise associated with golf will help you sleep better (unless you gamble on your rounds and lose more often than you win).
Additional Health-Related Reasons to Golf
- Golf has a low injury risk (one of the lowest injury risks in sports)
- Golf promotes healthy social interactions (this depends on the people you play with, of course 🙂
- Golf promotes creativity (coming up with an excuse for every bad shot takes some real talent)
Is Golf Good for Your Health?
The evidence seems to suggest just that. If you’re at a crossroads with your health or need some negotiating power to play more often, feel free to share this article with the affected parties.
If you’re new to golf, Par 3 Near Me will connect you with walker-friendly courses near you. Visit our homepage to start your search and improve your health.