Golfing is more than a pleasant pastime: Research has shown that regular golf games can offer proven benefits that substantially improve your physical and mental health. Older adults in particular may find that they can meet recommended exercise goals while enjoying this low- to moderate-intensity activity.
One reason to keep playing: a regular golf schedule can add years to your life—literally. A Swedish study of data on 300,000 golfers found that those who played regularly had a five-year increase in life expectancy over non-golfers of the same age, gender, and socioeconomic status.
“In addition to a really fun sport (or obsession), golf is a great form of low-impact outdoor exercise for older adults, even if you’re only playing 9 holes,” says Todd Lutz, Get Fit coordinator at Splendido, an all-inclusive community for those 55 and better in Oro Valley.
Here are some tips on making the most of your time on the green:
1. If possible, skip the golf cart. Better yet, skip the caddy. If you play an 18-hole course three to five times a week and walk rather than ride, researchers estimate you’ll get the optimal amount of endurance exercise for good heart health. “You don’t really realize how much you’re walking—but the distance adds up,” says Todd.
And if you carry your clubs or pull them in a hand cart, you’ll improve on that score. A report published by the Rose Center for Health and Sports Sciences estimates the following:
Golfers playing a 9-hole course who carry their bags burn an average of 721 calories per game. Those who use a pull-cart burn an average of 718 calories. (And the study showed these golfers thad the lowest average scores!)
Golfers who walk the course but have a caddy carry their clubs burn an average of 613 calories.
Those who use a golf cart burn an average of 411 calories.
2. Get your brain in the game. Golf can also improve your brain health. Not only does the physical exercise stimulate nerve cell connections—which can delay mental deterioration and even dementia—the mental aspects of the game can keep cognition sharp. Tallying scores, planning strategy, and focusing on hand-eye coordination all provide healthy workouts for your brain.
3. Let go of stress. Forget the stereotype of the club-throwing angry golfer. Participating in an activity you enjoy, which requires concentration, can release mood-boosting endorphins in the brain. This immediately makes you feel happier and more relaxed. And in periods of time you spend eliminating or forgetting stress, you are actually reversing its negative effects on your body and brain.
4. Make it a social game. Getting together with friends and acquaintances has been proven to improve mental health and brain health. So make the most of socializing during (or before and after) a golf game—catch up on news, share a joke, or make plans for future games.
5. Enjoy the outdoors. Simply being outside has a positive effect on your mood. Research has shown that regular exposure to “green areas” can cause our bodies to relax and let go of stress, as well as ease anxiety. One study showed that those who exercise outdoors rather than inside experienced greater mood elevation and actually exercised for longer periods of time.
Many Splendido residents (and their families) take advantage of the onsite 18-hole putting course. Each month, Splendido golfers compete in a monthly themed putting tournament organized by a resident committee, and of course many of them also play on various local golf courses.
The Tucson area offers a lot of excellent golf courses—maybe it’s time to take a swing at golf.