No surprise: Golf can be good for your health

We all know exercise is good for your health, even a moderate amount. It would make sense, then, that golf is good for your health, generally speaking.

Of course, if you're a golfer who smokes and/or drinks on the course, that might be debatable. Or if you're one who lets your golf score determine your self worth, golf may not be that healthy for your lifestyle. But by in large, golf has health benefits for most who play it, even if you ride.

And it's not just the obvious. Besides moderate exercise, there are other aspects of playing golf that are beneficial such as overall well being, confidence, and mental sharpness, sunshine and fresh air.

According to the Golf & Health Project -- a recent study commissioned by the nonprofit World Golf Foundation (whose sponsoring partners include the PGA of America, PGA Tour, United States Golf Association, Royal and Ancient and Ladies Professional Golf Association) -- golf and exercise can help control weight, diabetes, hypertension, balance, cognition and help prevent fractures.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, led by Dr. Andrew Murray, have conducted the largest, most comprehensive study of golf and health, with the results published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine . In all, 5,000 papers were reviewed to provide a comprehensive view on the impact of the game of golf on health, illness prevention (and management) and associated injuries.

Of course, it behooves the golf industry to conduct such a study. Promoting the health benefits of golf could help grow the game, which is in the best interests of all golf organizations. Additionally, the project also launched with the support of eight ambassadors: Aaron Baddeley (Australia), Annika Sorenstam (Sweden), Brooke Henderson (Canada), Padraig Harrington (Ireland), So Yeon Ryu (South Korea), Ryann O'Toole and Zach Johnson (United States), and last, but not least surprisingly, Gary Player of South Africa.

"I am delighted to be an ambassador for the Golf & Health Project and wholeheartedly support the work they are doing to prove the health and well-being benefits of golf," Player wrote in a statement. "The systematic and academic confirmation of the physical and mental benefits golf gives people will be of great use to us all to spread the word to institutions, governments and the entire world."

The key benefits of playing golf include improvements in life expectancy (it says golfers can live up to five years longer than nongolfers on average) as well as physical and mental health benefits. According to the study, golf can be expected to decrease the risk of more than 40 major chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, and colon and breast cancer. Current research shows that golf has positive impacts on cholesterol, body composition, metabolism and longevity.

Of course, there are things you can do that can make golf even healthier.

Walking instead of riding whenever possible would be the first obvious choice, but even more important would be nutrition. Just ask Player, who not only advocates exercise, but a healthy diet as well. That means you might want to cut back on the hot dogs, candy bars and alcohol not only when you're on the course, but in your everyday lives as well.

Stretching before your round can also prove beneficial. And if you incorporate a regular yoga routine, not only will you be healthier in both mind and body, but it will probably benefit your score as well. A good source is Katherine Roberts' Yoga for Golfers .

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How golf benefits health

According to the Golf & Health Project, supported by the World Golf Foundation, golf can help you:


  • Live longer: Those who play golf can live five years longer than those who don't play.
  • Have a healthy mind: Regular physical activity decreases the risk of anxiety, depression and dementia.
  • Have a healthy body: Golf, which can provide moderate physical intensive activity, can be expected to decrease the risk of more than 40 chronic diseases, like type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and colon and breast cancer.
  • Increase wellness benefits: Golf has been shown to have confidence, self-esteem and self-worth benefits

Golf as exercise

Even riding, golfers typically walk up to 10,000 steps, which is more than four miles on average. Golfers who walk can log up to eight miles or more depending on the course.

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Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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No surprise: Golf can be good for your health
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