Experts outline how golf can be part of a fitness regimen
A new consensus statement published on Monday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that many people could be boosting their health by taking up golf.
Led by Dr. Andrew Murray at the University of Edinburgh, the consensus is one of the first of its kind in sport and comes ahead of the world famous Ryder Cup, the biennial golf tournament between Europe and the United States, this year taking place Sept. 28 to 30 in France.
The statement draws on a systematic review of 342 eligible studies and includes survey responses and discussions among an international panel of 25 experts, including public health and golf industry leaders.
The experts identified 79 scientifically supportable statement items from the literature reviewed, including what is currently known about the health benefits of golf, what influences people to take up, or not take up the sport, and recommendations on how golfers, clubs, industry leaders, and policy makers can promote the health benefits and encourage a wider participation of the sport.
From the review the evidence shows that playing golf regularly is a good form of moderate intensity physical activity and is associated with a wide variety of health benefits including a reduction in the risk factors for heart disease and stroke, improved strength and balance for older players, and a longer life.
Perhaps unsurprisingly these benefits are greatest for those who opt to walk around the course rather than take a golf cart, with the experts also recommending that players aim for at least 150 minutes of golf per week, or combine golf with other sports.
The experts also agreed that although the risk of injury from golf is moderate compared to other sports, an appropriate warm up and cool down before and after play can help minimize this risk. The statement also recommends taking appropriate precautions to stay safe in the sun, as golfers may be putting themselves at a higher risk of skin cancer due to spending more time outdoors.
In addition to physical health benefits, golf can also improve mental health, as well as overall health of those with disabilities. The panel also agreed that golf is a sociable sport that encourages people to get outside and connect with nature.
However, despite these health benefits and a recent increase in public interest relating to golf, the sport still fails to appeal to the masses, with players tending to be middle aged to older men, of white European heritage, relatively well off, and living in North America, Europe and Australasia.
Those who fall outside this profile often believe that the game is not for them, something which needs to change according to the statement, with the experts calling for the sport, clubs, and professionals and players to be more inclusive and welcoming towards people from all backgrounds and walks of life; and encourage “practices that prioritize diversity, healthy societies, connection with, and care of, the environment, environmental integrity and health and wellbeing.” JB
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