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Golf for fun, fitness, and health

Now that spring has arrived and the Masters just ended, lots of people in our area are talking about, and playing, golf. Over 25 million Americans played golf last year, making it one of the most popular sports to participate in. In fact, golf is the most popular sport played by adults over the age of 55.

Often perceived as a leisurely activity for retirees or business executives, golf offers a wide range of health benefits that make it an excellent form of physical activity for individuals of all ages. Playing golf can improve cardiovascular health, enhance muscle strength and endurance, increase flexibility, improve balance and coordination, and reduce stress levels. This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.


According to one study, which measured heart rate in golfers not using an electric cart on a hilly cart, the intensity of a round of golf is consistent with moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. Considering that the average golfer plays for about three hours per round, this accounts for a substantial amount of recommended weekly physical activity. A golfer who walks the course could burn up to 1,000 calories over 18 holes. Of course, the activity level and health benefits are reduced when riding in a motorized cart, but even that level of activity is associated with health benefits.

Playing golf can improve muscle strength and endurance. Golf requires the use of multiple muscle groups, including the core, legs, arms, and shoulders. Swinging a golf club strengthens the muscles of the upper body, while walking uphill and downhill on the golf course strengthens the leg muscles. Carrying the golf bag on the shoulders or pushing a golf cart can further enhance the benefits of the exercise.

Golf can also enhance flexibility, which is crucial for maintaining a healthy range of motion and reducing the risk of injuries. The swinging motion of the golf club requires a full range of motion of the shoulders, back, hips, and wrists. Additionally, the walking and bending involved in playing golf also contribute to improving flexibility. Together, enhanced strength and flexibility  can aid in the prevention of back pain, joint stiffness, and muscle soreness.

Playing golf can also improve balance and coordination, which is essential for performing daily activities and maintaining stability. Golf requires a high level of hand-eye coordination, as well as coordination between the upper and lower body. The ability to maintain balance while swinging the golf club and walking on uneven terrain can help prevent falls and injuries, especially in older adults.

Lastly, playing golf can reduce stress levels and improve mental health. Most golfers play in a group, so golf offers social interaction in addition to activity. Furthermore, outdoor activity is known to have substantial benefits on mood and feelings of well-being, meaning that golf can be good for mental health as well as physical health.

In conclusion, golf is an excellent form of physical activity that offers numerous health benefits. The aerobic, strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination involved in playing golf can enhance overall fitness and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Furthermore, golf can provide a peaceful and relaxing environment that can reduce stress levels and improve mental health. So, next time you think of golf, remember that it is not just a sport but also a way to stay fit and healthy.

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