Far from being a passive, leisurely activity, golf is a surprisingly effective workout, and we sent two golfers around Yarrambat Golf Club to prove it.
Golf rarely gets mentioned when moderate exercise is discussed, unlike brisk walking, cycling, swimming, even gardening. That’s probably because golf’s largely seen as a leisurely game better suited for social activity than for getting fit.
But science says a round of golf is actually great exercise, particularly for those who hate to exercise. In a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers from the Scotland’s University of Edinburgh found that playing golf is likely to increase life expectancy, reduce the risk of chronic diseases and boost mental health.
“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,” says Dr Andrew Murray, the lead researcher in the Golf & Health Project, Physical Activity for Health Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh.
“Evidence suggests golfers live longer than non-golfers, enjoying improvements in cholesterol levels, body composition, wellness, self-esteem and self-worth. Given that the sport can be played by the very young to the very old, this demonstrates a wide variety of health benefits for people of all ages.”
So just how much exercise do you get when playing golf?
Belgravia Leisure put two golfers to the test over nine holes at the Keilor Public Golf Course in Keilor, Victoria. We asked Melissa Puli, a Customer Service Officer at Keilor Public Golf Course, and Matthew Tufinga, a 14-year old schoolboy, to wear Samsung tracking devices so we could measure just how much exercise they were getting on the course.
The nine holes at Keilor (mostly par 4s and 5s) took Melissa and Matthew about 1.5 hours to complete. According to the fitness trackers – Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2s – Melissa walked 4.09km (6382 steps) in just nine holes, while Matthew did slightly more at 4.52km (6546 steps). These are substantial distances for anyone to walk, with step counts more than half the 10,000 commonly recommended as an ideal amount of physical activity for a whole day.
But if Melissa and Matthew didn’t have trackers, they never would have guessed they were exercising. While having a fun and relaxed time over nine holes of golf, Melissa burned 630 calories and Matthew 654. To put that into context, Melissa and Matthew burned as many calories playing golf in just 1.5 hours as you’d burn in an hour of the following (according to figures from Harvard University):
- BMX or mountain biking
- Touch football
- Running: 8.05km/h (7.5 min/km)
So take your pick. Would you rather burn your 600+ calories on a pleasant nine-hole round of golf or an hour of running? We must stress that nine holes isn’t a full round of golf. If you’re doing a full round, just double the stats.
Ideal for fat loss
Melissa was pleasantly surprised that she burned 630 calories doing something she never considered to be exercise. “It’s not bad calorie expenditure. If you’re the type of person who needs to look out for calories in terms of weight loss, golf is ideal,” she says.
“We weren’t overdoing it, we went around the course at a steady pace,” Melissa points out. She and Matthew didn’t use a golf cart, walking the nine holes in full, but studies say that even if you use a cart to get around the course, you’re still getting in exercise simply from swinging a club and moving your golf bag around.
Melissa worked out that the 630 calories she burned was the equivalent energy present in a McDonald’s cheeseburger. Not that she’d rush out to buy a cheeseburger, she says, but it shows that a golf outing would definitely lessen your guilt if you ate one.
Considering golf as exercise is a new and exciting way of looking at the sport, says Melissa. “Many people think golf involves a leisurely walk around the golf course, but if you track it with a fitness tracker, you realise that golf isn’t just a social activity but a physical one as well.”[Text Wrapping Break]
The benefits of golf are underestimated
“Potentially, the benefits of taking part in sports such as golf, which can be played by people from the age of four to 104, are substantially underappreciated,” says Dr Murray. “Not only by health care practitioners but by people who play themselves.”
In fact, golf may be the ideal exercise for those who can’t see themselves taking up running or heading to a gym. The golden combination of walking, muscular activity and social interaction will make a huge difference to a golfer’s health, according to Dr Murray’s research.
“Simply put, golfers live longer, have better overall physical health and gain wellness/mental health benefits. So whether you’re young or old, a scratch golfer or have never picked up a club before, there are now even more reasons to head to your nearest course,” he says.
Benefits of Playing Golf
Here are some of the key benefits highlighted by the University of Edinburgh.
- Physical benefits: Improved cardiovascular health, improved blood-glucose levels and increased life expectancy.
- Psychological benefits: Improved self-esteem, improved confidence and reduced anxiety.
- Social benefits: Golf also provides a great opportunity for developing interpersonal skills, emotional control and enhancing social connections.