It’s that time of year again! Every January 1st Americans make a resolution to improve their year. If you’re one of the 45% who resolve to better manage their weight or increase their level of fitness in 2017, consider adding golf to your weekly routine. Golf is a good way to stay fit through moderate aerobic exercise and strengthening of your muscular and skeletal systems.
Here are 4 ways that golf can help you reach this year’s fitness goals:
1. Burn calories to lose weight
Nobody’s arguing that golf course food is low-cal, but golf is a surprisingly effective way to burn lots of calories.
Losing weight is simple (if not easy): just eat fewer calories than your body uses. When you take in more calories than your body needs that energy gets stored as fat. When your body can’t get enough calories from food it pulls the energy from fat instead.
So how many calories can you burn playing golf? Playing an 18 hole round burns 721–2,000 calories if you carry clubs. Riding in a cart you’d burn around 411–1,300 calories. The exact amount will vary based on the course and the golfer but it’s a significant loss no matter what.
Too busy for a full round of golf? Try heading to the driving range. An hour spent hitting a bucket of balls will burn off around 200 calories. In comparison you’d have to run for 30 minutes to burn the same amount.
2. Increase your muscle mass to get fit
During a round of golf you engage several large muscle groups including your arms, core, and legs. Over time this repeated exercise increases your muscle mass.
The bigger muscles you have the more calories your body burns – even when you’re sitting still. Beyond the caloric burn, strong healthy muscles are necessary to support joint health and maintain strong bones. It can even help your body metabolize insulin and become more resistant to diabetes.
The fitness benefits of golf reach beyond fat lost and muscles gained, too. In a 2000 study a group of mostly sedentary men played golf 2-3 times a week. Over the course of 20 weeks the new golfers lost weight, reduced their waist size and decreased the fat around their abdomen. Their stamina increased. Their blood pressure lowered and their levels of the good HDL cholesterol increased.
3. Improve your mental health
Golf has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety and improve overall mental health. Programs have even been designed around golf to treat PTSD in veterans. This mental boost is attributed to a combination of exercise and the following:
Added vitamin D
A deficiency of Vitamin D has often been linked with depression, and more than 40% of Americans are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D is best absorbed through sunlight. Because most people don’t spend enough time outside they aren’t getting sufficient vitamin D. Golfing a few times a week can provide you with the vitamin D you need to stay healthy and decreases the risk of depression, certain cancers, osteoporosis, diabetes, hypertension, and autoimmune diseases (source).
Time spent in nature
Outdoor activities can help alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s, dementia, stress, and depression, and improve cognitive function. A recent study showed that just 90 minutes of walking in a natural setting, such as a wooded trail or golf course, increased positive thoughts and decreased negative self-talk in most people.
Socialization is one of the most appealing aspects of playing golf. Luckily, it has also been shown by the World Health Organization to be one of the most important factors in preventing the development of mental health issues.
4. Live for 5+ years longer than non-golfers
All of the above health benefits lead to a healthier, longer life for the average golfer. In fact according to a Swedish study golfers live around 5 years longer than non-golfers. This increase is the same regardless of age, sex, or socioeconomic status.
What’s more, golfers with low handicaps saw a larger jump in longevity than golfers with high handicaps.
“Maintaining a low handicap involves playing a lot,” says Anders Ahlbom, who led the study, “so this supports the idea that it’s largely the game itself that is good for the health.”
This increase in lifespan is due to the amount of exercise involved in the frequent amount of golf it takes to become a low handicap golfer. In other words, people who golf more often are better golfers and obviously more golf equals more exercise.