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Golf – The health benefits we all need to know about

Updated: Aug 31, 2023


Golf is played in various formats by over 55 million people across 200 countries, and with a staggering 32,000 golf courses around the world, playing golf is a lot more accessible than people think.


The great thing about golf is that you don’t need to be inherently ‘good’ at it to enjoy the health benefits, and research conducted by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Harvard Medical School and the Department of Health Australia all point towards key physical, mental and social benefits which we can all benefit from.

There is a common joke amongst the golfing community that those who play golf recreationally actually get more out of it than the professionals do, as they typically spend longer out on the course, therefore reaping more of the benefits which I’m going to talk about below.

As a sport, golf can be viewed as being less physically demanding than others - so much so that many people question whether or not to call it a 'sport'... but the high level of skill involved in the game, plus the miles covered to bag all 18 holes means that this view is typically limited to those who haven't played it.

Regardless of your viewpoint - even when played at a slower pace - it is hard to argue with the many health benefits connected to hitting a little ball into various holes with a big stick.


Cardiovascular Health


Being physically active is good for overall circulation, which encourages your heart to work more efficiently. This helps to build and maintain the muscles of the heart and lower the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular issues. Golf is also known to give much-needed exercise to people who are undergoing cardiac and stroke rehabilitation. Regularly playing golf also improves lung function, especially in older adults, and this aids the optimum functioning of the heart.


Longevity


Some studies suggest that playing golf can actually increase life expectancy. A study that involved more than 300,000 participants found that people who regularly played golf lived five years longer than others who did not play golf. The study found that golfers had a 40% lower mortality rate as compared to non-golfers.


Stress and Mental Health


For many people, playing golf is an ideal way of reducing work related and personal stress. Teeing off when you’re in a bad mood will help to channel your tension and stress into something productive. Plus, exercise helps our bodies release happy hormones such as endorphins, which improve your overall mood and can reduce acute pain, as well as reducing feelings of depression and anxiety.



Accessibility


Medical professionals recommend physical activity as being one of the key ways of maintaining overall health and wellbeing. Golf is unique in the way that it caters for all demographics, regardless of age, gender or physical ability. No physical activity comes without risk of injury, but golf is certainly considered a low-risk sport. As a 'low impact' form of activity, golf rarely exposes you to the risk of serious injuries. Of course, it is possible to hurt yourself, but perfecting your form, regularly stretching for those big twisting movements, and being careful when carrying your kit should protect you from many golfing related injuries.



Vitamin D


Vitamin D is proven to improve overall health in a number of ways. It supports the immune system, and keeps bones, teeth and muscles healthy. The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight when outdoors and as many golf courses are set in picturesque outdoor locations, there’s plenty of sunlight to be absorbed. You’ll also benefit from the experience of being in nature. Being outdoors and close to nature can help reduce anxiety and is thought to improve concentration, while partaking in activities outside can help boost self-esteem.




Socialising


Golf is commonly misconceived as a solitary, individual sport, when in actual fact golf is incredibly social. It is the social aspect that makes the game so appealing for many people, so whether it’s your caddy or a fellow player, its easy to make the most of your shared interests and strike up a conversation with other players on the course, making it a perfect location to network and make new business relationships.




Cognitive Function


Golf is a sport that centres around improving core cognitive skills such as accuracy, focus and concentration. It also encourages creative thinking, such as the foresight to visualise where and how far your shot will go. Hand-eye coordination is an essential component of golf – as is knowing where your ball landed. The course can often be a quieter place to learn these skills, without the roar of a crowd or the umpire's whistle to distract you.




Sleep Quality


The combination of physical activity, fresh air and natural light will all help you to get a better night’s sleep after a round of golf. It may feel like low-impact activity at the time, but golf is nonetheless a significant workout. Being outside helps our bodies sync better with the rising and setting of the sun (circadian rhythm), so the longer you spend out on the course, the better the following night’s sleep will be. Golf's effect on your sleep quality in turn makes you a better golfer. Some studies have shown that sleeping better will eventually lower your handicap. Golfers who had trouble sleeping, for reasons such as sleep apnoea, discovered that their game improved once they could get a full night's rest.





In summary, if you’re planning to start playing golf, or would simply like to experience its many physical and mental health benefits, a good way to begin would be to enrol in a recreational event at a local course to get some golf time under your belt. This will help you understand the fundamentals of the game, if you are not already familiar with it.

Striide’s golf day for all abilities is coming up on Thursday 14th September at Formby Hall, where you will be able to experience all of the benefits mentioned above, as well as some informal networking, some fun games, and an evening dinner and social to tie everything up.


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