Dr's Casebook: Golf is a good way of getting exercise in middle and old age
The Kingdom of Fife is famous for its many golf courses. St Andrews alone has seven and Cupar has the oldest nine-hole course in the world. It was inevitable that we would be following in the footsteps of many golfing legends. At Earlsferry we found memorials to James Braid, one of golf’s Great Triumvirate, who won the open five times. Then at St Andrews we saw all sorts of memorials to Allan Robertson, Old Tom Morris and his son Young Tom Morris.
The beauty of golf is that it is a sport that people can keep up until a ripe old age. To get the maximum benefit from it though, you need to be a golf-walker and not be tempted into using a golf cart unless you absolutely need it.
Research from Sweden looked at the physical demands on middle-aged golfers during a round. They found that the exercise intensity ranged from 40 to 70 per cent of maximum aerobic power, despite the short walk, stop and hit a shot pattern of the sport. To put that into perspective, a four hour round of golf has the same benefit as a 45 minute fitness class. Golf is thus a good way of getting exercise in middle and old age.
Another study from Hawaii studied men aged between 71 and 93 years of age. They found that the risk of heart disease decreased by 15 per cent for each half mile walked daily. More than that, they found that men who walked one and a half miles or more per day had less than half the rate of heart disease of the men who walked less than a quarter of a mile.
Very interestingly, although you would think that carrying your bag or pulling a trolley would be even better for you, this does not seem to be the case. The benefit seems to be in the process of walking, not in expending energy hauling the bag or trolley.