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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Is Golf Exercise?

Looking to spice up your daily exercise routine? Golf may not seem like a fitness regimen that is going to benefit your physical and mental health. Isn’t it just a lot of standing around and hitting balls and standing around some more? Surprisingly, golf has loads of health benefits when you tackle it as more of an exercise and less of a leisure activity.

A 2015 NPR poll found that over soccer, softball, and tennis, of the sports that adults enjoy playing the most, golf topped the list. For many retirees, golf provides an entire day’s worth of enjoyment plus exercise and social interaction.

The average 18-hole golf course ranges between 5.7 and 7.8 miles roughly according to an interesting experiment from Golf Monthly. If you walk the distance between holes you’re clocking thousands of steps and potentially burning 1,500 - 2,000+ calories on an 18-hole course. That is substantial considering a 175 lb. runner in a more high-impact situation would need to run 5 miles straight in an hour to burn just around 650 calories.

Other health benefits of playing golf include:

Cardiorespiratory Activity
Logging thousands of steps between holes means a boost in blood circulation. With an increase in heart rate, golfers exercise and strengthen the heart muscle, as well as increase blood flow around the body all the way from the toes to the brain. Being outside and increasing breath intake means strengthening respiratory muscles as well for better, stronger lung capacity.

Muscle Engagement
The pull back, swing, and follow through of hitting golf balls, from long drives to short putts, engages an array of key muscle groups. The glutes help control hip rotation and extension, the pectoralis and latissimus muscles give strength to the swing and stabilize shoulder motion, the core abdominal and back muscles hold the swing together and tighten up torso rotation, and the forearm springs the body’s energy of the swing down into the club for the strike.

Low Injury Risk
As a low-impact sport, golf plays an important role in providing fitness opportunities, especially to older adults, with a lower risk of injury than high-impact sports like soccer or running. This is important for helping seniors with arthritis or osteoporosis stay active. Even with some muscle or tendon strains, medical aids like a knee or wrist brace for golf can keep golfers playing with less pain and stress to important joints.

Cognitive Boost
The focus golf requires stimulates cognitive activity, getting neural pathways humming and honing skills of concentration. This type of mental exercise is important for combating dementia and Alzheimer’s down the line. Spending a significant amount of time outdoors surrounded by the natural setting of a golf course has also been linked to more attentive, positive, and happier moods.

Extended Longevity
This one might seem far-fetched, but a 2008 study out of Karolinska Intitutet in Sweden actually found that the death rate for golfers was a whopping 40% lower than for people of the same age, sex, and socioeconomic status who did not golf. In addition to the positive effects on physical health, golf also is a social game often played with friends, engaging players in regular conversation and emotional stimulation.

The key to getting the most out of golf as a fitness activity is to skip some of the components that focus on golf as a leisure activity like high-calorie meals at the country club, riding in golf carts between holes instead of walking them, and using a caddy to carry your clubs instead of carrying them yourself.

When it comes to revamping your exercise routine and exploring a new hobby, tee up for a little golf action - it generates more physical and mental benefits than you know!

This is a guest blog entry.

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