The mere notion of including golf in a fitness program has been viewed with scorn by many fitness experts over the past 20 years. But I disagree. Golf can contribute to your good health. Let me tell you why.
Positive Health Benefits
Assuming you walk the course and play a minimum of 9 consecutive holes, these are some of the benefits you can derive
- You’ll burn, at the least, 200 calories. This is calculated by multiplying 2 miles (the typical 9-hole course) times 100 calories expended in one mile of walking.
- The game’s mechanics exercise your hand-eye coordination, which is one facet of neuromuscular control.
- You must focus intently as you play, thereby improving your mental concentration skills.
- The fresh air and natural surroundings of a golf course promote relaxation, decreased tension and reduced anxiety for most players.
- Companionable conversation and humor is a part of golfing with friends and associates. Office relationships may lack this healthy interaction.
Two other benefits-not related to your score-are derived. You exercise your sense of sportsmanship, which is healthy and goal-oriented. And you gain a sense of accomplishment that comes from achieving your goal of getting the ball from A (the tee) to B (the hole).
What Golf Can’t Do
Awhile back, when I was an active cross-country runner, two friends and I decided to try setting a 9-hole golf course record. By running the entire 2.2-mile golf course as we played, we completed nine holes in just under 18 minutes. Back then our recorded time got into the Guinness Book of Records! I don’t recommend this approach; for one thing, our scores were terrible. But we did focus on cardiorespiratory conditioning, something that an ordinary nine holes won’t do. Nor will golf increase your muscular strength. And if you take the game too seriously, golf will not help you manage stress.
So enjoy the health benefits of golf, but don’t let the game replace other important values such as family time, involvement at work and exercising for muscular strength and your cardiorespiratory system. Ralph LaForge, M.Sc., teaches exercise physiology at the University of California-San Diego and is Director of Health Promotion at the San Diego Cardiac Center.
How To Play
For Maximum Benefits
- Walk, don’t use a golf cart.
- Carry your clubs over your shoulder. You’ll burn more calories. Instead of a mere 100, you will expand 150 to 175 calories per mile. New comfortable bags of lightweight synthetics are available just for this purpose.
- Use a full range of clubs. This promotes the maximum neuromuscular learning and coordination because you must swing slightly differently with each club.
- Play at least nine holes or more regularly, say once a week. This helps you build your skills. Challenge yourself by playing on a variety of golf courses.
- Aside from your game, consider walking or jogging on a golf course. The rolling terrain is ideal for fitness training. While most private courses prohibit this, public courses usually permit walking or jogging on the paths at dusk or dawn.
- Avoid the 19th hole! The pro shop lounge’s high calorie, high-fat snacks, and alcoholic beverages can quickly undo all golf hard-won benefits. Ask the lounge to stock healthier fare. Consider packing your own snacks-maybe a tuna salad sandwich-and juice.