If you’re reading GolfBlogger, you likely don’t need any reasons to play golf. But in case you have to justify it to your better half, here’s an argument: playing golf will help you live longer, fitter and more mentally healthy.
A study at the University of Edinburgh found that playing golf increases life expectancy, helps prevent chronic diseases and improves mental health.
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. 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.
Dr Andrew Murray – Lead researcher – Golf & Health Project, Physical Activity for Health Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh.
As you might suspect, walking a round was found to have greater benefits than riding, but both had benefits. Golfers typically burn a minimum of 500 calories over 18 holes. Walkers, of course, will reap more benefits.
Another study, conducted by the Swedish medical university, Karolinska Institute looked at 300,000 Swedish golfers and found that the death rate amongst the golfers was 40 percent lower than people who did not golf. That was the equivalent of an increased life expectancy of five years.
Professor Anders Ahlbom, who has led the study with Bahman Farahmand is not surprised at the result, as he believes that there are several aspects of the game that are proved to be good for the health.
“A round of golf means being outside for four or five hours, walking at a fast pace for six to seven kilometres, something which is known to be good for the health,” he says. “People play golf into old age, and there are also positive social and psychological aspects to the game that can be of help.”
Golf players have a lower death rate regardless of sex, age and social group. The effect is greater for golfers from blue-collar professions than for those from white-collar professions. The lowest rates are found in the group of players with the lowest handicap (i.e. the best golfers).
A Harvard study found that walking 18 holes three to five times a week generates the optimal amount of endurance exercise for your heart. Pulling or carrying clubs increases the calorie burn and other benefits.
And while it is not directly related to golf, The American Cancer Society found that even low levels of walking are associated with lower mortality rates:
The American Cancer Society recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (equal to a brisk walk, at a pace of 3 miles per hour) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity (makes your heartbeat and breathing faster, and makes you sweat) each week, preferably spread throughout the week.
The study found that all levels of walking, even levels below the recommended guidelines, were associated with lower mortality risk. Participants who walked for less than 2 hours per week had a lower death risk than those who got no activity at all. And those who got in 1 to 2 times the recommended level of physical activity just through walking had a 20% lower mortality risk.
That brings me to a press release from golf trolley and bag maker, BIG MAX. The company noted that young golfers are increasingly turning to push carts for their rounds.
“There are three clear advantages of using BIG MAX push carts and we’re seeing more young golfers benefitting from them than ever before,” said Rick Oldach, CEO of BIG MAX USA.
“Fatigue at the end of a round is reduced – there’s a reason you don’t see pro’s carrying their own bags! Long-term stress on the body is reduced, and we’ve seen through several pieces of research that this is particularly important for young golfer’s developing bodies.”
The start of the youth golf push cart revolution, Big Max says, can be traced back to the 2014 NCAA Championship when the entire Stanford team, including eventual winner Cameron Wilson, turned out using push carts. It was clear that this team and their highly respected coach, Conrad Ray, saw a real performance advantage to pushing.
The change in attitude among coaches is reflected, Oldach says, in the growth of the BIG MAX college program. Currently nineteen colleges are part of the program, including the University of Oregon, the University of California and Iowa State. Further, the American Junior Golf Association has ruled that push carts are approved for use in all junior competitions. Doctors have found that pushing the golf clubs promotes healthier backs, shoulders, necks and spines.
Oldach concluded, “Not only does using a push cart help you at the end of a single round, it will help young golfers long after they progress into the adult ranks. We’d obviously like to see BIG MAX carts on every fairway, but while we know not every cart will be a BIG MAX, we’re delighted to see more golfers pushing carts all over the country and to see more young people than ever before pushing a cart and enjoying their round in comfort.”
For my part, I really enjoy walking rounds of golf, and will do so at every chance. I have a ten-year-old Sun Mountain Speed cart that has been my companion for hundreds of rounds. I am also convinced that I play better when I walk.
I regularly play with guys in their 70s who walk a brisk 18 holes. They CAN walk 18 holes because they DO walk 18 holes. There’s no excuse for folk in their twenties and thirties to be such physical wrecks that walking is not enjoyable. As a species, we are genetically inclined to walk.
If you are a habitual rider, try this: let your partner drive the cart while you walk from tee to green. He can bring the clubs to you. Then, when you realize that you are able to walk nine holes, try doing it with a push cart. Then go for eighteen. You’ll be a healthier, happier person for it.