USC research suggests golf can provide health benefits to older participants
As avid golfers, we all know the many health benefits associated with the game — everything from the physical to the mental and social ways that playing golf can improve your lifestyle. A recent study conducted in part at the University of Southern California has confirmed those beliefs and provides evidence that golf can improve quality of life through muscle strengthening, improved balance, aerobic exercise and social interaction.
The Strength and Balance Study was carried out as part of a larger Golf and Health campaign under the direction of the R&A with two sample groups over two years by Professor Maria Stokes OBE at the University of Southampton and Dr. George Salem at USC. Salem is the director of the Institute for Senior Golf Science and the co-director of the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research Laboratory, overseeing its exercise and aging biomechanics research program.
The study was undertaken to educate those outside the sport, including public health professionals and politicians, about the health benefits that golfers already know about themselves.
Padriag Harrington, a two-time winner of the British Open said, “People who play golf do realize the benefit of it. But the wider public doesn’t understand it -- the health benefits of playing golf for your physical and mental health. I have seen how impactful golf can be on peoples’ well-being; now it is time to get the message out there.”
The findings should please golfers of all ages in Southern California and beyond. Combined findings show that:
> Participants in the golf training program improved their muscular strength, power, endurance, balance, flexibility and walking performance.
> Golfers under the age of 80 had better strength and balance than sedentary non-golfers of similar ages.
> Golfers had better dynamic balance and static balance than non-golfers.
> Strength of limb muscles and balance were better in golfers than non-golfers, indicative through gripping and swinging a club, walking and squatting.
> The physical demands recorded during a golf round were equivalent or greater than the demands for other common activities such as gym work or yoga.
> Participants benefited from green space, social interaction and walking over hilly terrain.
“Our findings suggest that golf should be considered when prescribing exercise for older adults because it appears to be safe, feasible and an adherent form of exercise for a better, healthier quality of life,” Salem said. “Moreover, as golf is an exercise activity that includes strengthening, power, balance, endurance and cognitive challenges, it satisfies the recommended physical activity guidelines of the World Health Organization, the American College of Sports Medicine and UK guidelines.”
Since 2016, The R&A and its partners, including the World Golf Foundation (WGF), the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the European Tour, have sought to raise awareness of the health benefits of golf to encourage interest in participation by people of all ages and abilities, improve the sport’s image and increase advocacy for golf by government agencies and public health bodies.
“These findings should encourage policy makers and health care professionals to consider recommending playing golf to older people as part of encouraging them to adopt a more active lifestyle, as well as tackling physical inactivity to reduce healthcare costs,” said Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A.
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