Posted on Feb 13, 2020, 4 p.m.
Those who play golf at least once a month have been found to be more likely to live a decade longer than those who don’t, and they face half of the risk of a premature death which may be due to the sport helping to alleviate stress, based on a study from the University of Missouri which was presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles.
According to the lead author and neurologist Professor Adnan Qureshi golf can provide benefits such as stress reduction, and it is an easy sport to maintain on a regular basis because it is not exhausting. “Our study is perhaps the first of its kind to evaluate the long-term health benefits of golf, particularly one of the most popular sports among older people in many countries.”
Findings were based on data from the Cardiovascular Healthy Study which is a population based observational survey of American risk factors for heart disease and stroke among those over the age of 65; out of close to 5,900 participants 72,384 were golfers with an average age of 72, two thirds of which were women. The golfing participants reported playing golf at least once a month or more, but they did not specify whether they walked or used a golf cart.
From 1989 to 1999 the participants had extensive annual medical examinations and clinic visits every 6 months. Over a 10 year period the mortality rate was significantly lower in the golfer group as compared to the nongolfers; around 15% of the golfers died while 25% of the nongolfers passed on. During follow up at the end of the study 8% of the golfers experienced strokes and 10% experienced heart attacks compared to 24.6% of the nongolfers.
Although not able to determine if playing golf had a direct impact on protecting against stroke or heart attack Professor Qureshi said, “The US Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans does not yet include golf in the list of recommended physical activities. Therefore, we are hopeful our research findings could help to expand the options for adults to include golf.”
In America around 25 million people play golf, and it is one of the most popular leisure sports in the UK with close to 2 million people playing it in England at least twice a month. Due to the relaxed, controlled pace and social nature most find the motivation to maintain playing and continue to do so well into older ages, even after experiencing a stroke or heart attack.
According to Qureshi, “While walking and low intensity jogging may be comparable exercise, they lack the competitive excitement of golf. Regular exercise, exposure to a less polluted environment and social interactions provided by golf are all positive for health.Another positive is that older adults can continue to play golf, unlike other more strenuous sports such as football, boxing and tennis. Additional positive aspects are stress relief and relaxation, which golf appears better suited for than other sports.”
The researchers are currently conducting additional research to investigate what other health conditions may benefit from playing golf on a regular basis, and whether gender or race may be factors.
In 2016 the University of Edinburgh reviewed 5,000 golf studies and found it to afford both mental and physical health benefits to those of all ages, and those who played it lived longer than those who did not. Golf was suggested to help promote an increase in life expectancy, improved chronic disease, and boosted brain power; the physical gains increased with age, as well as balance and muscle endurance in older people increasing to help improve cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic health.
Based on these findings golfing burns about 500 calories over 18 holes and those who walk the entire course could walk 4-8 miles, additional it may also help those with chronic disease such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, colon and breast cancer, as well as reduce the risk of anxiety, depression, and dementia according to the researchers.
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