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The Health Benefits of Playing Golf Regularly

Do you want to live longer? Then you should play more golf. In recent years, scientists have begun to study the health benefits of playing golf regularly. A longer life expectancy is only one of many ways in which golf can improve one’s health, though it may be the most compelling. Other benefits include a consistent calorie burn and weight maintenance. Golf has a reputation for being a lifetime sport, and one in which some cannot seem to get enough of. However, if you are looking for reasons to play more golf, the following discussion about its health benefits should provide all the ammunition necessary for a compelling case beyond just having a good time.

Live Longer

In 2008, Science Daily reviewed a study by a Swedish medical university called Karolinska Institutet. Published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Sciences in Sports, the study analyzed the impact of playing golf on an individual’s life expectancy. Age, gender, and socioeconomic status were all considered in order to rule out false causes. Here’s what the study found: “The death rate for golfers is 40 percent lower than for other people of the same sex, age and socioeconomic status, which corresponds to a 5-year increase in life expectancy.” For the skeptics in the room, the strongest evidence that it is playing golf, and not other aspects of a regular golfer’s life, that is providing this health benefit, is the fact that the lowest death rates were found “in the group of players with the lowest handicap (i.e. the best golfer).” Having a low handicap requires a lot of time on the golf course, thereby supporting the overall conclusion that the more time you spend playing golf, the longer you are expected to live, as compared to somebody who does not play.

Calorie Burn

Not to be left out of this interesting line of research, the American Society of Golf Course Architects recently analyzed a number of health studies related to golf. One such study was conducted by the Rose Center for Health and Sports Sciences, based out of Denver, Colorado. Lead by Neil Wolkodoff, the Center calculated the calories burned in playing a nine-hole round of golf: “golfers who walk and carry their own bag burn 721 calories, golfers using a pull cart burn 718 calories, golfers walking with a caddie burn 613 calories and golfers riding in a golf cart burn 411 calories on average.” To put these amounts of burned calories in perspective, the research reminds that “burning 2,500 calories a week can greatly reduce the risks of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.” A little math provides a compelling argument for playing at least a nine-hole round of golf (walking) three to four times per week.

Weight Maintenance

A 2011 article by the World Golf Foundation also provides additional, compelling, health-related reasons to play more golf. One such reason is that “walking three 18-hole rounds per week provides enough exercise for weight maintenance for all ages.” This finding was based off of research conducted by the Walker Research Group on behalf of Golf 20/20. Putting the health benefits of golf into perspective, the study also compared the exercise value of a round of golf to other activities: (1) an eighteen-hole round equals a five mile walk “and meets the 10,000 steps per day guideline for exercise recommended by most medical and clinical physicians,” (2) “[e]xercise intensity and energy cost of playing” nine holes equals forty “minutes of lawn mowing for adult men,” and (3) “[s]ince walking is biomechanically more efficient than running, walking an 18-hole round of golf is roughly equivalent to a 3.5 to 4 mile run.” Looking for a way to improve your health? Look no further than scheduling a few rounds of golf per week.

The Takeaway

Golf is hardly the only way in which someone can stave off old age and health problems. But most golfers would agree that it might be the most fun way to do so. Now, not all rounds of golf are created equal. Indeed, one recurring theme from the three studies above is that to gain the most health benefits out of a round of golf, you should walk, rather than ride. Nonetheless, any time spent playing is good exercise, so play more golf and give yourself a chance to live longer and be healthier.