Mark Twain is said to have described golf as “a good walk spoiled.” I don’t expect the 25 million Americans who play the game would agree with him.
The enjoyment that comes from teeing off with the driver, striding down the fairway, and focusing intently on a 30-foot putt (not to mention refreshments at the 19th hole) is also matched by some wonderful health benefits.
Perhaps the best of these benefits is a longer life. Let’s see what the science reveals about golf and longevity.
Golf Reduces Your Risk of Death
Evidence that golf can add years to your life comes from a brand-new study performed by neurology professor Adnan Qureshi at the University of Missouri.
Qureshi’s team analyzed data from 5,888 older adults of whom 384 were regular golfers. All the participants attended a clinic every six months and had extensive annual clinical examinations.
At the end of ten years the golfers had significantly lower death rates, with 15.1 percent of golfers dying compared to 24.6 percent of non-golfers.
Dr. Qureshi believes golf extends longevity because it provides more than just physical exercise, explaining, “While walking and low intensity jogging may be comparable exercise, they lack the competitive excitement of golf.
“Regular exercise, exposure to a less polluted environment and social interactions provided by golf are all positive for health. Another positive is that older adults can continue to play golf, unlike other more strenuous sports such as football, boxing and tennis.
“Additional positive aspects are stress relief and relaxation, which golf appears better suited for than other sports.”
Dr. Qureshi’s study is the first of its kind to evaluate the long-term benefits of golf, but many other studies support its findings.
Golf Adds Five Years to Life
In 2008, a research group from Stockholm analyzed mortality statistics from the entire Swedish population, identifying 300,000 who played golf.
After taking age, gender and socioeconomic status into account, the golfers had a death rate 40 percent lower than those who did not play the game. This corresponded to a five-year increase in life expectancy.
Researcher Anders Ahlbom reported, “A round of golf means being outside for four or five hours, walking at a fast pace for six to seven kilometers, something which is known to be good for the health.
“People play golf into old age, and there are also positive social and psychological aspects to the game that can be of help.”
Meanwhile, research in Scotland attempted to uncover the specific biological changes that golf triggers inside the body and mind, with remarkable results.
Golf Helps Prevent and Treat Over 40 Major Diseases
Three years ago, researchers from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, reviewed over 5000 studies.
They concluded that golfing can help older people improve balance and muscle endurance as well as cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic health.
Playing golf also reduces the risk of anxiety, depression and dementia.
Principal author Dr. Andrew Murray, a leading specialist within Sports and Exercise Medicine, explained, “We know that the moderate physical activity that golf provides increases life expectancy, has mental health benefits and can help prevent and treat more than 40 major chronic diseases such as heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, breast and colon cancer.
“Evidence suggests golfers live longer than non-golfers, enjoying improvements in cholesterol levels, body composition, wellness, self-esteem and self-worth.”
Most important, don’t let lack of ability deter you from playing golf.
As former British Prime Minister and keen golfer David Lloyd George made clear a century ago, “Golf is the only game where the worst player gets the best of it. He obtains more out of it as regards both exercise and enjoyment, for the good player gets worried over the slightest mistake, whereas the poor player makes too many mistakes to worry about them.”