How Golf Impacts Your Health
Dr. Alan Douglass discusses the top five health benefits of playing golf.
Did you know that golf is a sport played by more than 60 million people on six continents?
Research shows that playing golf regularly can be good for your health. It can provide good exercise and may be associated with longevity, physical health and wellness benefits.
Full disclosure: golf also carries relatively small but real health risks. You can get injured while playing golf, and golfers have an increased risk of getting skin cancer. That’s why it’s important to have a medical provider who you can trust.
It is recommended that Americans exercise for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity (brisk walking), 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (jogging or cycling) or some combination of the two every week. In addition, individuals should engage in muscle strengthening activities at least two days every week.
Many adults, however, do not meet those goals, and that’s where playing golf can help, especially if you choose to skip the cart and walk the course.
Dr. Alan Douglass, director of Middlesex Health’s Family Medicine Residency Program and an avid golfer, says just walking the golf course is a great form of exercise. It can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke. In addition, walking burns calories and promotes weight loss.
“Active people, on average, also live longer,” Dr. Douglass says. “In fact, a Swedish study showed golfers live five years longer than non-golfers.”
Golf also has mental health benefits. It can help relieve stress and improve your mood. Being outside and exercising can also help you sleep better, and golf can help build social connections and increase self-esteem and confidence.
While playing golf can offer significant health benefits, you also need to be careful. Put on sunscreen and wear a hat to reduce the risk of getting a sunburn, and be sure to get your annual skin check. Excessive sunlight exposure can increase your risk for skin cancer.
Also be sure to stretch, and listen to your body. Injuries happen. Don’t over do it, and seek medical care when needed!
If you are playing golf with someone who does not exercise regularly, Dr. Douglass says to encourage that person to start a walking program before they hit the course for the first time. They should gradually work up to walking the distance of at least nine holes, he says.
“If they have problems with their hands, arms, shoulders, knees or back, they may want to check with their medical provider before they start swinging golf clubs,” Dr. Douglass adds.
If you did not have the opportunity to play golf during the winter season, or if you do not already have a regular strength and flexibility routine, don’t worry. It’s never too late to start a strength or stretching program.