The Most Underrated of Games
One of the oldest of sports, historians date the game of golf back to ancient Rome, when participants used a bent stick to hit a stuffed leather ball around as a form of amusement. The modern game of golf originated in 15th-century Scotland, debuting its craze in America in the late 19th century.
In more recent history, golf courses have evolved from being a turf for the elitist, to welcoming those from every class, culture, and budget. Further, golf supports an array of lifestyles and is accessible to those of all ages--so why do we never hear about all the health benefits of golf? The game can be enjoyed leisurely or competitively; either way, you are benefiting more than we think you realize.
NEXT TIME, SKIP THE CART (IF YOU’RE ABLE)
Next time you are checking in for your tee time, ask yourself, ‘when is the last time I decided to skip the cart?’
Walk It Out
In 2018, Golf Monthly published a study that examined the average distance walked in an 18-hole round of golf. On average, it was found that most golfers will cover 4-5 miles from merely walking in a straight line. However, the added walking distance to follow their ball allows for several additional steps. Depending on the undulation of the course, golfers can burn upwards of 1,500 calories, and cover as many as 6-6.5 miles, according to Golf Digest. Not to mention, golfers who choose to carry their bag burn up the ultimate number of calories during their round. Ditching the cart not only burns calories and promotes weight loss, but also improves your heart health. If a physical limitation requires you to take a cart--don’t sweat it! Simply being out on the course playing allows for a full-body workout.
A Full-Body Workout
The nature of the game, and the golf swing itself, allows for a full-body workout. On average, a seasoned golfer will swing their club 20-30 times in a 9-hole round, not including practice swings; and considerably more times for a novice golfer. The rotary movement of the golf swing exercises not only the arms, but the shoulders, legs, back, and the entire core.
Don’t Forget the Aiming Juice
Walking 18-holes of golf a few times a week can drastically improve your physical well-being, increase endurance, and put you on track to a healthy lifestyle so you can reduce potential health problems in the future. Just don’t forget to hydrate while you’re out there!
A SENSE OF BELONGING
So, we have heard about what the game can do for you from a physical standpoint--but how about from a mental one?
We Need It to Survive
Social interaction is one of the most primal parts of human instinct. We need it to survive. Having a sense of belonging has a profound impact on our mental well-being. Individuals, especially seniors, tend to lose touch with others as they age. Playing golf is a great way for seniors to not only stay in physical shape, but mentally as well, through the social interaction that it gives.
Playing golf grants social offerings not just for seniors, but for those of all ages. Some of your most vital relationships may have been formed on the golf course. Having this amity in your everyday can make for a content and healthy lifestyle.
DO IT FOR THE ENDORPHINS
Mental Health--a hot topic, particularly now. Simply getting outside for a short amount of time each day can have tremendous effects on that brain of yours.
A Round of Relief
When you exercise, your heart rate goes up. Cardiovascular exercise sparks the production of endorphins by your central nervous system, releasing them into the bloodstream. These endorphins give you that “feel-good” rush, which can distract your brain from feeling pain--whether it be physical or mental. When you are under stress, cortisol and other stress hormones govern your body with negativity. An increase in endorphins can help lower cortisol levels in your body, allowing you to relax, have a clear head, and get some quality sleep at the end of a long day.
Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Quick
Physical activity is an underestimated way to relieve stress in your life. For years, studies have suggested that staying active keeps your brain alert, your mental aptitude sharp, and reduces fatigue--all while improving your daily mood.
An Infinite Challenge
Playing golf can give you a vast sense of accomplishment. It is said that golf is easy to learn, but impossible to master. The good news is that means there is always a challenge for you. Practicing concentration not only develops your ability to focus, but also distracts your mind from negative thoughts.
Helping Our Patriots Everywhere
In 2017, a study examined golf as a form of therapy for Military Veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The study found that simply being outside, in the fresh air, amongst nature, can significantly reduce the negative effects identified with the disorder.
The PGA’s ‘Helping Our Patriots Everywhere’ (HOPE) program is another form of golf therapy that was designed to introduce golf to Veterans living with disabilities. The PGA set out to enhance the overall well-being of Veterans, be it physical, social, mental, or emotional. They now have over 130 program locations across the country. In 2019, HOPE impacted nearly 3,000 Veterans nationwide.
START ‘EM YOUNG
An appealing aspect of golf is that it does not require an immense amount of talent to be enjoyed at a basic level. It can be as leisurely and low impact as you would like it to be. Serious injuries are rare when compared with high-contact sports, and it is safe for your heart. For some, the benefits of golf can even lower the risk of certain medical predispositions. Because it is a low-risk sport, playing golf is attainable to people of all ages--especially children.
One in Three
According to fitness.gov, just one in three children are physically active daily. When recently examining childhood obesity, The Aspen Institute Project Play projected that children will live up to five years less than their parents in the coming years. This is a grievous statistic. So, what is a healthy path for your child to take?
For children under age 13, an appropriate guideline is to spend 20% of their active time participating in a chosen sport. The other 80% of the time should be spent with deliberate play. Deliberate play is flexible, fun, and intrinsically motivating for children. This is when your child rides their scooter around the neighborhood, or shoots hoops with the neighbor kid. It is important for children to explore, free from rules, and grow their imagination. Being on the golf course at a young age not only allows for exploration, but is a simple way to practice balance, motor skills, and the most basic athletic movements of golf.
The game of golf awards players an array of health benefits that other sports simply cannot. It is so much more than hitting a tiny white ball into a cup repeatedly. Golf empowers physical, mental, and social health benefits that can change your life, which is why we feel it is the most underrated of games.
August 4, 2020
Lyndsay Ward, author