Playing golf advised for ‘improving health and wellbeing’

Golf can reduce the risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
Golf can reduce the risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
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Too many people are missing out on the health benefits of golf, a sport which is good for both the mind and body and can help lead to a longer life, a panel of international experts has claimed.

An article piece published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine said evidence shows playing golf regularly can reduce the risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

Playing golf can provide moderate intensity aerobic physical activity, and it can boost older people’s strength and balance, the panel said.

It said the sport is associated with good mental health and improving the overall health of those with disabilities, and compared with other sports the risk of injury is moderate.

Golf is also sociable and gets people outdoors connecting with nature.

While around 60 million people play golf at least twice a year, the panel acknowledged the participant profile is quite narrow. Players tend to be middle aged to older, male, of white European heritage, relatively well off, and living in North America, Europe and Australasia.

The sport needs to be more inclusive and welcoming of people from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds, and any such initiatives should be supported, the panel said.

The panel, which includes Dr Andrew Murray of the University of Edinburgh’s Physical Activity for Health Research Centre, suggested that more people might be interested in taking it up if it was promoted as an enjoyable, outdoor activity that affords a sense of community and competitive challenge, as well as being good exercise.

The consensus – one of the first of its kind – comes on the eve of the Ryder Cup, the biennial tournament between Europe and the US.

The panel has drawn on a systematic review of the available published evidence and discussions among an international working group of 25 experts in public health and health policy, and industry leaders.

It has also made a raft of recommendations to guide policy-makers and industry leaders on how to make golf more inclusive and accessible and encourage more people from all walks of life to take it up.

The panel suggests golfers should aim to play for 150 minutes a week and walk the course rather than ride in a golf cart. It also urges the industry to develop a culture that will inspire more women and girls to play.

“These outputs, if widely shared and adopted, will contribute to an improved understanding of golf and health, and aid these groups in making evidence-informed decisions and to improve health and wellbeing,” the panel said.