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Tee off for a healthy round of golf

Tags: Cancer , Exercise , Stress

Tee off for a healthy round of golf - mainIt’s become one of the nation’s favourite outdoor sports and it’s popular with men and women of all ages. But what health benefits are there to playing golf?

According to figures from Sport England, over 1.4 million people play golf, with many people actively playing at least once a week. It’s a great sport for getting you out in the fresh air and walking, whilst playing nine or 18 holes.

 “Golf is a sport that is good for your overall health and your heart,” comments GP, Dr Emmajane Down. “All abilities and ages can get involved with playing golf and you can play on your own, in a team, as a casual pastime or on a competitive basis.”

How can golf help your health?

There are numerous ways in which golf can be a great sport for your health and wellbeing.

“Golf is considered to be a moderate, low impact, aerobic exercise,” explains Dr Down. “Golfing helps to increase bone strength, improve circulation, increase knee strength and strengthen the core muscles. If played regularly, it could help to reduce blood pressure and prevent heart disease.”

Although golfing statistics suggest a small drop in the number of people playing in the coldest months of the year, in general, golf is a year-round sport and there are golf courses throughout the country and abroad, so there’s plenty of choice when it comes to finding a location.

The nature of golfing means that for each round you’re out walking on a golf course, which is good for overall fitness and muscle tone.

“An average round of golf involves about 4km of walking,” says Dr Down. “So if you did this three to five times per week, it could be the optimal amount of exercise for your heart and lungs.”

“Pulling or carrying golf clubs improves strength and fitness, and also burns calories. It helps tone the arms, back and shoulder muscles.”

In addition, golf is a good exercise for your vision and hand-eye coordination skills, plus, many people find a round of golf a good stress reliever. “Being out in the fresh air can reduce stress and boost spirits, with the added benefit of boosting your vitamin D levels.”

The impact of golf on the body

There are some pitfalls with playing any sport, and golf is no exception.

“Common injuries occur as the result of incorrect techniques being used, aggravation of previous injuries, accidental falls and head or eye injuries,” explains Dr Down.

Playing golf regularly, especially when your technique isn’t quite right or you’ve not had any golf lessons, can put a strain on your body, affecting the wrists, shoulders, arms and back in particular.

“The lower back, shoulders and wrists are the most obvious joints at risk for golfers through the repetitive nature of the golf swing, but carrying a golf bag can also place an enormous strain on your neck,” say the British Chiropractic Association (BCA).

Although being out in the fresh air is great, and can be a good way of getting vitamin D, playing a round in hot sunshine can put your skin at risk of burning and skin cancer.

How to have a healthy round of golf

In order to prevent unwanted injuries, it’s advisable to warm up properly before each round of golf. The BCA suggest spending two or three minutes warming up before teeing off – focus on stretching your hamstrings, quads, chest muscles and shoulders.

If you’re new to golf, then “take lessons to make sure your technique is correct,” advises Dr Down. This will help ensure your posture is right, that you’re standing correctly, are swinging the clubs in the right manner and not doing any undue harm to your body. “By simply aligning the body, everyone can play golf better, with less effort,” say the BCA.
“Golf clubs can be heavy, so make sure that you lift and carry your clubs safely (bend from the knees) or use an electric buggy instead.” If you’d prefer to carry your clubs, check out golf accessories, such as lighter bags or bags with dual harness straps that will distribute weight evenly over your shoulders.
Practise the safe rules of the game and stand well away from swinging clubs and balls to prevent unexpected injuries. If you do experience any injuries whilst playing a round of golf, stop immediately – continuing to play regardless could exacerbate the problem.

Don’t overlook your footwear either. “Wear proper shoes for stability and to help avoid twisting the back and hips,” say the BCA.

Carry water with you round the course and drink it regularly to keep hydrated. “Wear sun protection to reduce the risk of skin cancer and reconsider playing in hot weather or hot climates,” adds Dr Down.

Finally, don’t forget that, like any sport, a post-event stretch is beneficial too. Happy golfing!

Useful Resources:

British Chiropractic Association

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