Golf is a popular sport that is enjoyed by more than 60 million people worldwide. While many see golf as a relaxing leisure activity, studies have shown that playing golf regularly can provide some surprising health benefits. Beyond just being a form of exercise, golf may help improve heart health, build muscle strength, reduce stress, and even stimulate brain functions.
Physical Health Benefits of Golf
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Walking 18 holes on a golf course is equivalent to a 5-mile walk and can burn around 500-1000 calories. This makes golf an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise. Studies have found that playing golf leads to improved circulation and blood flow, helping reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.
Even riding a golf cart provides cardiovascular benefits. One study found that golfers who rode carts walked about 1.6 miles during each round and burned around 300 calories per 9 holes. While not as strenuous as walking, riding a cart still elevates heart rate and improves overall heart health.
Increased Muscle Strength
The physical motion involved in swinging a golf club engages and strengthens core body muscles and improves overall strength and balance. The golf swing uses muscles in the upper and lower back, abdominals, obliques, glutes, and hamstrings. Carrying your golf bag (up to 30 lbs) over several miles further adds to the muscle-strengthening benefits.
As a low-impact activity, golf can improve muscle tone and strength without straining joints for those with arthritis or knee/back pain who cannot do higher impact exercises like running.
Enhanced Balance and Coordination
Golf requires precision and controlled body movements, which helps develop good balance, stability, and coordination. Rotating from your core and balancing on one foot during the golf swing engages many stabilizer muscles. Having good balance and coordination further reduces the risk of falls and injuries.
Mental Health Benefits of Golf
Reduced Stress and Anxiety
Golf is seen as a relaxing outdoor activity with mental health benefits. Being immersed in nature, away from daily stresses, helps lower anxiety, tension, and frustration. Walking in the fresh air and sunshine provides a calming effect. Golf also has social aspects and creates camaraderie, enhancing mood and well-being.
Studies show that the concentration and focus required during golf significantly reduces stress levels by shifting your attention away from worrying thoughts. Playing golf regularly helps improve mood and self-confidence.
Improved Sleep Quality
The combination of mild physical activity, time spent outdoors, mental exertion, and social engagement involved in golf may help improve sleep. Getting regular exercise and daylight exposure during golf play helps maintain healthy sleep-wake cycles. Golfers report sleeping better and feeling more rested after days spent playing golf versus inactive rest days.
Delayed Cognitive Decline
Some research indicates playing golf may delay age-related cognitive decline and reduce dementia risk. Golf provides a mental challenge requiring a combination of focus, multitasking, planning, and precision, exercising various brain functions. Making calculations on the course and visualizing spatial relationships involved in shots engages the mind.
The social interaction, physical exercise, and hand-eye coordination required in golf may help strengthen neural connections in the brain, boosting overall brain health. More longitudinal studies are still needed, but findings suggest golf may have neuroprotective benefits long-term.
Additional Health Perks of Golf
Fresh Air and Sunshine
Spending 4-5 hours outdoors immersed in nature provides health benefits. Exposure to sunlight increases vitamin D synthesis needed for strong bones, robust immunity, and healthy cellular function. Golf also connects you to fresh air, trees, grass, and water, which can restore mental clarity and energy.
Golf is often played in groups, providing an opportunity for social interaction and friendship. The social aspect of golf promotes emotional wellbeing. Companionship on the golf course combats feelings of isolation and loneliness. Being part of a golf community expands social networks, which protects overall health.
The visual processing involved in golf may help reduce risk of age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts. Tracking the trajectory and speed of the ball and visualizing distance improves eye-hand coordination and visual acuity over time. The nutrients in green vegetables found at many golf course restaurants further aid good vision.
Golf is good for your heart.
Golf, as previously stated, increases circulation, encouraging your heart to work more efficiently and helping to build its muscles.
As a result, golf works your heart and keeps your heart rate up. This will reduce your risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular issues naturally, as well as potentially lower your levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol. Playing golf on a regular basis may even lead to an increase in life expectancy.
Healthy Food Options
Because regular exercise works up an appetite, many golf clubs and resorts now offer fresh, nutritious dining options like salads, grilled chicken sandwiches, and fruit. This makes it easier to refuel with balanced meals and snacks after golfing rather than processed fast food. Making healthy choices provides energy for an active golf lifestyle.
Lower Skin Cancer Risk
While golf does involve some sun exposure, golfers have a 51% lower risk of skin cancer compared to non-golfers, according to the Journal of Investigate Dermatology. The sun exposure is not prolonged and golf is played mainly in mornings and late afternoons when UV radiation is lower. Golf attire also provides sun protection.
Recommendations for Maximizing Golf Health Benefits
Here are some tips to gain the most physical and mental health advantages from your golf game:
- Walk the course as much as possible instead of taking a cart. If using a cart, park further away from the green to increase walking distance.
- Do warmup stretches before teeing off to prepare muscles and improve flexibility. Important muscle groups to stretch include shoulders, back, hamstrings, and hips.
- Hydrate well before, during, and after play to prevent dehydration.
- Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen and wear a visor or hat to protect from sun over-exposure.
- Use proper technique and keep back straight to minimize golfing injuries. Consider taking lessons.
- Alternate clubs between holes to exercise both sides of your body.
- Schedule tee times in the morning or late afternoon for ideal lighting and comfortable temperatures.
- Play at least twice per week to see sustained benefits over time.
- Walk courses with hilly terrain to maximize calorie burn and muscle use.
- Meet up with friends while golfing to gain social and emotional health perks.
- Refuel with a healthy meal after golfing to nourish your body.
Making golf a regular part of your lifestyle is a great way to improve cardiovascular health, strengthen your body, reduce stress, stimulate your mind, and gain many other wellness benefits while doing an enjoyable activity outdoors. Use these tips to optimize your golf game for better health.
Golf burns calories and can help you lose weight.
Golf is not a high-energy sport, but it can still help with weight loss. You may not feel like you’re working out hard, but all that swinging and putting, plus walking an 18-hole course, adds up. On a typical round, you’ll be moving almost constantly.
This sustained activity keeps your heart rate elevated and at an optimum level for calorie burning. However, if you choose a buggy, you will not receive the same benefit.
A full 18-hole golf course is approximately 3.5 miles long. It is estimated that walking around the course could burn up to twice as many calories as riding in a buggy.
Serious injury is unlikely.
No physical activity is without risk of injury, but golf is a low-risk sport. Golf, as a ‘low impact’ sport, rarely exposes you to the risk of serious injury. Of course, you can injure yourself. However, perfecting your form and being cautious when carrying your equipment should keep you safe from golf injuries.
Learn more about avoiding golf injuries.
If you spend a lot of time working on your backswing, you might end up with golfer’s elbow. Tennis elbow, a painful condition caused by strenuous overuse of the muscles and tendons in the forearm, is similar.
Usually, rest is all that is required to recover, but physiotherapy can help to strengthen muscles and reduce pain. You can self-refer to physiotherapy (without a GP referral), and your physical therapist can always refer you to a specialist if they believe you require one.
Golf improves your sleep.
After a round of golf, the combination of exercise, fresh air, and natural light will help you sleep better. Golf may appear to be a low-impact activity at the time, but it is a significant workout.
Golf improves your sleep quality, which makes you a better golfer. According to some studies, sleeping better will eventually improve your handicap. Golfers who had difficulty sleeping due to conditions such as sleep apnea discovered that their game improved once they were able to get a full night’s rest.
More suggestions for getting a good night’s sleep
There are numerous health benefits to playing golf, ranging from improved immunity to better sleep, mental health benefits to the potential for weight loss. What’s keeping you from hitting the green?
Golf is much more than a hobby or leisurely pastime. Research continues to uncover the many physical and mental health benefits afforded by regular golf participation. Between the cardiovascular exercise, muscle strengthening, coordination building, mental stimulation, stress relief, and social engagement, golf provides whole-body wellness advantages.
Studies have shown golf can improve heart health, reduce anxiety and depression, delay cognitive decline, aid sleep, and even lower skin cancer risk. With proper hydration, sun protection, stretching, and healthy nutrition, a game of golf is tremendously good for overall wellbeing. Golf truly is a sport for a lifetime that keeps you healthier and happier as you walk the fairways. So the next time someone questions your golf habit, you can detail all the well-documented health perks you gain from teeing up. Golf may just be one of the healthiest hobbies you can have.
What physical benefits can be derived from golf?
- Golf provides cardiovascular exercise from all the walking, which improves heart health. According to studies, playing golf leads to increased circulation and blood flow.
- Golf engages and strengthens core body muscles and improves overall strength in the upper and lower back, abdominals, obliques, glutes, and hamstrings. The swinging motion enhances coordination.
- Carrying golf bags builds muscle strength by forcing you to walk distances with extra weight. Golf is a mild strength training workout.
- Golf enhances balance, stability, and posture through the controlled body rotations and weight-shifting involved.
Are there health risks with playing golf?
- Golf injuries can occur, commonly lower back pain or elbow/wrist strains from overuse. Proper warm-up stretches and using correct swing mechanics can prevent injury risk.
- Skin cancer is a concern due to extensive sun exposure. Wearing sunscreen and protective clothing are important. The skin cancer risk is higher for golfers versus non-golfers.
- Riding carts exclusively eliminates the cardiovascular benefits of walking courses. Riding carts should be combined with plenty of walking.
- Bad posture during swings or carrying bags incorrectly can lead to muscle or joint pain. Keeping proper spinal alignment is key.
What are the health issues with golf?
- The most common golf-related injuries involve the lower back, elbow, wrist, and shoulder from overuse and improper technique. Back pain is the most likely issue.
- A lack of warm-up and playing while out of shape greatly raises injury likelihood. Cart-only golf eliminates fitness gains.
- Dehydration and heat illnesses can occur since golf is played during warmer months. Drinking fluids regularly is vital.
- Overexposure to UV radiation leads to high skin cancer risk, demanding vigilant sun protection when golfing.
Are there health benefits to playing golf?
- Yes, regular golf provides excellent cardiovascular exercise, strengthens muscles, and enhances balance and coordination in ways that boost overall fitness.
- Golf may help improve sleep quality due to the physical exertion. It also reduces stress and anxiety levels through its relaxing nature.
- Studies suggest golf may delay age-related cognitive decline by providing mental stimulation.
- The social interaction and outdoor exposure boost mood and emotional health.
- Golfers have lower risk of skin cancer than non-golfers, likely because the sun exposure is not prolonged and occurs at safer times.