Older adults can gain physical and mental health benefits

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Experts say that being outdoors and socializing with others are two of the benefits of playing golf. Sergio Marcos/Stocksy
  • Researchers say older adults can gain physical and mental health benefits from golf.
  • Experts say that a person who plays 18 holes of golf can end up walking more than 10 kilometers.
  • They add that golf provides an opportunity to socialize and collect vitamin D from the sun.

The phrase “Golf is a good walk spoiled” was undoubtedly made by a bad golfer.

But even they could probably admit it was a good walk.

According to a team of researchers from Finland, golf is a good walk and more.

In fact, researchers report in a study published today that golf may be better for older adults than Nordic walking or regular walking.

Regular aerobic exercise has been documented to help prevent cardiovascular disease, as well as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and dyslipidemia (an abnormal amount of lipids in the blood that causes problems like high blood pressure).

But most of this evidence comes from studies focused on younger people participating in “acute bouts of exercise lasting 30 to 60 minutes at moderate to high intensity,” the researchers said in a statement.

There is less research on the impact of activities like golf on seniors, the team said.

The researchers looked at golf, walking and Nordic walking – an improved walking technique during which people use poles to work the upper body as well as the legs.

All are popular forms of outdoor aerobic exercise that are age-appropriate and considered safe and easily accessible for many seniors.

The team compared the acute effects of three different types of aerobic exercise on markers of cardiometabolic health in terms of intensity, duration and energy expenditure.

The study looked at 25 elderly, healthy golfers aged 65 and over. They compared the effects of three acute aerobic exercises — an 18-hole round of golf, 6 kilometers of Nordic walking and a 6 kilometer walk — on the blood pressure, blood glucose and lipid profile of their participants in real life. environment.

The researchers measured the participants’ blood pressure and collected blood samples and finger glucose tests. Subjects also wore fitness-measuring devices to monitor distance, duration, pace, energy expenditure, and specific exercise steps, in addition to using an ECG sensor to measure their heart rate.

The researchers reported that all three types of aerobic exercise improved the elderly’s cardiovascular profile when performed in acute sessions, despite differences in duration and intensity.

The reduction in systolic blood pressure during walking and Nordic walking also led to a decrease in diastolic blood pressure.

However, although golf has a lower exercise intensity compared to Nordic walking and walking, the longer duration and greater total energy expenditure involved in the game of golf positively affected lipid profile and glucose metabolism, they said. The researchers.

The study had some limitations, such as the small sample size and the accuracy of the fitness devices. Furthermore, conducting a study in a real-life environment does not allow all factors to be controlled as they would in a laboratory environment.

The researchers also recruited only golfers into the study, believing that non-golfers could not be expected to play a round of golf adequately, while Nordic walking was seen as a new type of exercise for most participants, which could have led to a decline in technique. the effectiveness of the activity.

But the authors concluded: “Despite the lower exercise intensity of golf, the longer duration and higher energy expenditure appear to have a more positive effect on lipid profile and glucose metabolism compared with Nordic walking and walking.”

“These age-appropriate aerobic exercises can be recommended for healthy older adults as a health-enhancing form of physical activity to prevent cardiovascular disease, and can also be used as a treatment strategy to improve cardiometabolic health among those who already have a cardiovascular disease”.

Fitness experts say the benefits of golf go beyond a good walk.

Walter Lis, editor-in-chief of golf publication Chicago Golf Report, told Healthline that a 2018 study reported that the average distance covered on a golf course with a playing length of 6,800 yards is 6.6 miles.

“On many golf courses, that distance also requires climbing hills, getting in and out of sand bunkers, as well as navigating various types of rough and uneven terrain,” Lis said.

“In addition to the cardiovascular benefit of walking more than six miles, the golf swing requires flexibility, stability, strength and excellent hand-eye coordination,” noted Lis. “Because the golf swing requires multiple weight shifts, often on uneven or sideways slopes, the swing itself promotes greater balance and flexibility.”

Golfers also get vitamin D from being outdoors and benefiting from being a social sport, Lis said.

“Increased socialization is a major factor in golf’s popularity,” said Lis. “A round of golf is usually played with up to four players in a group. Interaction with playing partners, along with the inherent social distancing, was a significant reason why golf has seen such a huge increase in participation since the start of the pandemic.”

Hannah Shine is a certified personal trainer and health coach in Australia. She told Healthline that golf has positive mental benefits.

“Golf can bring a variety of physical and mental benefits to seniors, including better cardiovascular fitness, greater strength and flexibility, and better balance and coordination,” said Shine. “There is also stress relief, improved cognitive function and social interaction.”

Shine noted that there may also be limitations for some seniors.

“It can be physically demanding, especially for those with mobility issues,” she said. “There is a risk of injury, especially in the back, elbow and wrist. It can also be frustrating for those with limited mobility or hand-eye coordination.”

Shine said that golf is beneficial as long as one approaches it in the right way.

“Overall, golf can be a great form of exercise and mental stimulation for seniors, as long as it is approached with caution and in a way that works for each individual,” she said.

Older adults can gain physical and mental health benefits

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