When most guys want to improve their fitness, they look to high-intensity activities like biking or running. Those are both great options for boosting your health, but some folks would rather do anything than jog for 30 minutes. Trying to force yourself into an exercise routine you hate isn’t a great idea, because you’ll look for any excuse to skip it. What if one of your favorite pastimes could be the key to your fitness goals? It just so happens that regularly engaging in a round of golf can offer the same benefits as other forms of exercise. We’ve highlighted six ways heading out for 18 holes can make you healthier. Now you don’t have to feel guilty about sneaking out to the course.
1. Weight Loss
Whether you’re looking to lose some serious weight or just get a little leaner, going out for a few rounds can help you get there. While a swing here or there doesn’t do all that much to slim you down, all the walking in between will. You’ve probably heard health professionals mention the importance of taking 10,000 steps every day, and Berkeley Wellness reported findings from a study that indicated a full 18-hole round easily exceeds the recommendation. If thinking about steps is too fussy, consider the mileage you’ll cover. Though the exact distance will vary for every golfer and every round, one game will take you pretty far. FitnessHealth101.com said most players can expect to walk about 4 miles per round.
Though there are few studies examining the specific health benefits of golfing, About Sports reported survey findings that revealed the sport does a decent job of carving away calories. According to the results, carrying your own clubs for a round burns 721 calories while using a push-cart comes in second at 718 calories. Not surprisingly, riding in a cart significantly reduces the amount of energy you’ll expend. So don’t worry if you’re no pro, because you’ll be walking your way to a slimmer stomach with each additional step.
2. Better Sleep
We’ve all heard we should get more sleep to improve our health, but it’s not necessarily as easy as flicking the lights off a little earlier. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed more than 25% of Americans have occasional insomnia, and an unlucky 10% suffer through it constantly. There are all sorts of strategies or treatments you could try, but many of the options are going to cost you. Playing a game with the guys could be just as good as any sleeping pill, though. The Daily Mail said engaging in activities that involve walking is linked to better quality sleep. The researchers from the study said it’s even more true for more purposeful activities, such as golfing.
On the flip side, getting better sleep could help improve your score. The New York Times revealed results from a small study, which examined how treating players for sleep apnea affected their performance. After six months of treatment, the group’s average handicap improved from 12.4 to 11. Even if you don’t start playing like a professional, you’re bound to feel more focused on the course after getting some decent rest.
3. Reduced Stress
Though Americans are less stressed as a whole these days, the American Psychological Association’s (APA) annual study found that many are still feeling unhealthy levels of strain. People turn to all sorts of different activities to manage the uneasy, often exhausting, feeling, ranging from heading out for happy hour to venting with a friend. Getting some exercise might be the best bet, though. The Huffington Post explained physical activity helps the brain release feel-good chemicals called endorphins. While many might think that involves a trip the gym, the article went on to say activities like golf can be just as beneficial.
Heading to the driving range is a good option if you’re short on time, but you’ll likely feel even better if you get together with a group of friends for a game. According to NPR, spending time outside and socializing with others rank among Americans’ favorite ways to de-stress. Gathering your buddies for a round does both. If work has you feeling stressed, it might be time to arrange a tee time.
4. Heart Health
While swinging the clubs might not get your ticker pumping the way wind sprints do, golf is still a great way to promote heart health. Golfsmith touted the sport as a way to improve cardiovascular health thanks to all of the walking. For those who loathe lacing up for a run, walking the course while enjoying a game is a much more manageable way to get their hearts pumping. According to the American Heart Association, walking at a quick clip can be every bit as beneficial for your ticker as running.
If you make a habit of hitting the course, you’ll reap even greater rewards. A study from 2000 traced how regularly walking during golf impacted the health of middle-aged men over the course of 20 weeks. The men experienced a number of improvements, including significantly improved cholesterol levels.
5. Stronger Bones
Bone health isn’t just a concern for older folks. U.S. News & World Report said getting adequate calcium and weight-bearing exercise starting at a young age is crucial to ensure healthy joints and bones later in life. While high-intensity activities are usually good for bones, they can be hard on joints over time. Adding weights to your regimen is an easy way to keep your knees from crying in pain, but you don’t have to hit the gym to get the benefits. Complete Nutrition said carrying your own clubs turns your round into a weight-bearing exercise, which benefits both muscles and bones.
6. Overall Longevity
Want to live your longest, healthiest life? Golf could be the key to longevity. ScienceDaily said results from a Swedish study found golfers had a 40% lower death rate than the rest of the population. While the study didn’t take into account other lifestyle factors, the findings are promising for those who enjoy regularly swinging their clubs.
Exercise in any form can help add years to your life, but The Wall Street Journal reported some interesting findings about how high-intensity activities compare to more relaxed ones. The article said a study found cycling and rowing weren’t more effective at lengthening life than playing golf. But courses are also a backdrop for tossing back beer and smoking cigars, so keep your expectations in check.