Golf: The Perfect Sport

Health Professional

Golf could quite possibly be the perfect sport. Did I just say that? My avid-golfer-of-a-husband must be feeling giddy right about now.

And I know some of you may be thinking, "That is the slowest moving activity around, how could it possibly be the perfect sport?"

Well, hear me out and you just might begin to believe. There are other sports, like soccer and basketball, which obviously require lots of energy, strength, and endurance. Golf, on the other hand, does not require too much of least not at first glance. Golfers can have a caddy carry their clubs for them, hop in little carts and take off to the next hole, having really only walked to and from the cart (possibly even with beverage in hand). And then it's off to the snack shack. Not too demanding, from a fitness aspect at least.

But having a caddy, using a cart, and/or heading for the snacks and beverages are choices the golfer makes. Yes, it is often the norm, but no one is forcing this. You can easily turn golf into something much more advantageous to your fitness plan. For one, you can choose to carry your own clubs. Lugging that bag around will build strength and challenges your aerobic and anaerobic capacities. You can also choose to walk part -or all- of the course instead of hopping in a cart. Nine or eighteen holes add up quickly. In fact, if you walk the entire course for one round of golf, you will be walking as much as four miles. _  _

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As stated in a Harvard Men's Health Watch, "If you walk 18 holes three to five times a week, you'll get an optimal amount of endurance exercise for your heart. If you pull your clubs or carry them, you'll burn more calories per round, and benefit even more."

And golf can be especially helpful for the elderly and people with ailing hearts. A study published in a 2004 issue of Aging Clinical and Experimental Research set out to figure out how much time was spent at different exercise intensities for male golfers, in relation to age, while walking a typical 18-hole golf course.

The researchers found that walking an 18-hole golf course is equal to moderate and high exercise intensity for the elderly, mainly low to moderate for middle-aged men, and low for younger men.

Another study, published in the American Journal of Medicine, looked at the effects of regularly walking a golf course on various health and fitness indicators in middle-aged men. For this study, healthy male golfers aged 48 to 64 years who had been largely inactive during the 7 months leading up to the study were compared with age-matched, similarly sedentary controls. The study participants in the intervention group were encouraged to play golf two to three times a week over a 20-week period.

At the conclusion of the study, it was found that, again, "Regular walking had many positive effects on the health and fitness of sedentary middle-aged men. Walking during a golf game is characterized by high adherence and low risk of injury and is therefore a good form of health-enhancing physical activity."

Another good thing about golf: While it is a low impact sport, it (unlike swimming or other water exercise) is still a weight-bearing activity. This gives you the double bonus of being relatively easy on the joints while still working to build or preserve bone density (which is what helps keep our bones strong and more resistant to fractures). Golf doesn't require more extreme measures such as running, jumping, diving, tackling, etc. Thus, as long as you are using correct form and taking the proper precautions, you have a relatively low risk of sport-related injury.

So golf can be a perfect sport, and not only from the physical aspect. When playing golf, it is the essence of the game to compete against yourself. Yes, you may be playing against other golfers, but many times, you are trying to beat your last score or your best score at that time. Competing with yourself helps encourage you to do your absolute best in everything you do. Also, with golf, you are outside, getting fresh air, and being at one with nature. Golf courses are beautiful places, with vibrant green as far as the eyes can see and amazing tree lines. It can be a very peaceful place.

And while aspects of golf can be peaceful, it can also be a very stimulating and social endeavor. It not only provides a great opportunity for networking with your peers, it also could become a great family event. Moms, dads, siblings, grandparents and even the kids can all get in the game. A low-impact, weight-bearing, endurance-building, outdoorsy way to increase physical activity and family time all at the same time? Ding ding...we have a winner, folks

And although golf can be very beneficial to your health, here are some precautions that you should take to minimize risk of injuries:

  • Warm up for 10-15 minutes before playing the course
  • Consider taking lessons. When you use correct technique, you are defending yourself from injuries...and of course, learning how to play the game better.
  • Make sure you take care of yourself before and after play. If you feel yourself overdoing it, take a break. Alternate golf with other activities that work different muscles.
  • A very important tip: Stretch at least three times a week. Make sure to target the areas that are more golf specific, like the back, shoulders, and arms.

The weather is finally starting to get nice again and it's a perfect time to pick up a "perfect sport". Get out and enjoy the beautiful spring weather. Break out those cleats, gloves, golf bag, and head on out to the course.

I'll see you there.