Research Suggests 8 Major Health Benefits of Playing Golf

“I wasn’t manifesting any of the signs of cancer; I didn’t feel sick or have reduced energy… I was exercising by playing golf on a course where I could enjoy the mountains… It was calming and a good way to live. I wished I had done that years ago.” 

p. 79, “From Doctor to Patient”

After his cancer diagnosis, Dr. Nagula went on the pursuit of better health. He wasn’t just seeking remission from cancer, though. Dr. Nagula wanted to be spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy. One of the ways Dr. Nagula improved his all-round, holistic health was by playing golf. Read on to learn about 8 major health benefits of playing golf, according to current research:

Health Benefit #1: Burning Calories

Playing golf burns calories. Many researchers have sought out to answer the question, “How many calories are burned while playing golf?” According to 15 studies cited in a 2016 review by Murray and colleagues, we know that golfers burn an average of:

  • 3.3 – 8.15 calories per minute
  • 264 – 450 calories per hour
  • 531 – 2,467 calories per 18 holes played

Health Benefit #2: Mental Health

Playing golf may improve mental health and wellness. Two studies found improvements in anxiety and stress after playing golf (Belanger et al., 2013; Heilbrunn, 1965). In a golf intervention for individuals with disabilities, golfing improved self-efficacy and self-worth (Kim et al., 2011). Golfing also seems to have a positive influence on self-worth and self-esteem in the general population, as well (Murray et al., 2016).

Health Benefit #3: Respiratory Health

Playing golf may improve respiratory health. Two studies have shown that regularly playing golf may improve lung function (Getchell, 1967; Brown et al., 2016). Respiratory benefits are found frequently in older adults, and one study even found that golfing helped children with asthma (Weisgerber et al., 2008).

Health Benefit #4: Cardiovascular Health

Playing golf may improve cardiovascular health. Risk factors for cardiovascular disease include physical inactivity, low aerobic fitness, high glucose and lipid levels, and high body fat percentage. Multiple studies have shown that golf helps lower all of these risk factors (Murray et al., 2016). Additionally, golf is an appropriate lower-intensity exercise for people in rehabilitation from cardiac disease or stroke.

Health Benefit #5: Social Health

Playing golf may improve social health and relationships. Golfing provides an opportunity to socialize, which is crucial to overall wellbeing. Studies have shown that golfers have better developed group and self-identities (Murray et al., 2016). Golfers also have better social connections, which include intergenerational family relationships (Murray et al., 2016). 

Health Benefit #6: Decreased Cancer Risk

Playing golf may decrease risk for colon and breast cancer. While no studies have specifically looked at golfers and colon/breast cancer risk, a relationship between physical activity, in general, and reduced colon/breast cancer risk has been noted (Lee et al., 2012). A link between golfing and skin cancer risk has been found, though, so it is crucial to apply sunscreen and wear protective clothing while golfing.  

Health Benefit #7: Musculoskeletal Health

Playing golf may improve musculoskeletal health. Specific musculoskeletal benefits that have been mentioned in various research studies include improved balance, strength, and bone health (Murray et al., 2016). However, it’s important to note that injuries can occur from overuse and poor swinging mechanics.

Health Benefit #8: Increased Life Expectancy

Playing golf may increase life expectancy. Lastly, 2 studies have shown an association between golfing and increased life expectancy (Farahmand et al., 2009; Lee, 2004). In fact, authors of one study expect that golfers live an average of 5 years longer than non-golfers, when holding gender, age, and socioeconomic status constant (Farahmand et al., 2009).


To find out more about Dr. Nagula’s transformational lifestyle change, read his book, “From Doctor to Patient” here. In this book, Dr. Nagula shares the tools he used to go from a cancer patient to now being in the best shape and health of his life.


Sources:

Belanger, L. J., Plotnikoff, R. C., Clark, A. M., & Courneya, K. S. (2013). Prevalence, correlates, and psychosocial outcomes of sport participation in young adult cancer survivors. Psychology of Sport and Exercise14(2), 298–304. doi: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2012.10.010

Brown, S., Samuel, D., Lee, J. S., et al. (2016). Age related differences in lung function between female recreational golfers and less active controls. Proceedings of the World Scientific Congress on Golf.

Farahmand, B., Broman, G., Faire, U. D., Vågerö, D., & Ahlbom, A. (2009). Golf: a game of life and death – reduced mortality in Swedish golf players. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports19(3), 419–424. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2008.00814.x

Getchell, L. H. (1967). An analysis of the effects of a season of golf on selected cardiovascular, metabolic, and muscular fitness measures on middle-aged men ; and the caloric cost of golf. Eugene: University of Oregon.

Heilbrunn, G. (1965). On Play and the Psychopathology of Golf. American Journal of Psychotherapy19(2), 344–345. doi: 10.1176/appi.psychotherapy.1965.19.2.344

Kim, K., Compton, D. M., & Robb, G. M. (2011). Increasing the self-efficacy of individuals with a disability through a theory-based curriculum applied to playing golf. International Journal on Disability and Human Development10(2). doi: 10.1515/ijdhd.2011.020

Lee, I.-M., Shiroma, E. J., Lobelo, F., Puska, P., Blair, S. N., & Katzmarzyk, P. T. (2012). Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy. The Lancet380(9838), 219–229. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(12)61031-9

Lee, I.-M. (2004). The “Weekend Warrior” and Risk of Mortality. American Journal of Epidemiology160(7), 636–641. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwh274

Murray, A. D., Daines, L., Archibald, D., Hawkes, R. A., Schiphorst, C., Kelly, P., … Mutrie, N. (2016). The relationships between golf and health: a scoping review. British Journal of Sports Medicine51(1), 12–19. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-096625

Weisgerber, M., Webber, K., Meurer, J., Danduran, M., Berger, S., & Flores, G. (2008). Moderate and vigorous exercise programs in children with asthma: Safety, parental satisfaction, and asthma outcomes. Pediatric Pulmonology43(12), 1175–1182. doi: 10.1002/ppul.20895

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