Want to live longer? Play golf

WE ALL know that hitting a little white ball around the golf course ruins a nice walk, but now there’s scientific evidence that it’s good for you.

A regular game of golf can typically burn off 500 calories over 18 holes to improve help prevent and treat chronic diseases such as heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, breast and colon cancer.

Being out in the sunshine and fresh air brings mental benefits and combined with the physical activity of golf can help ward off anxiety, depression and dementia.

Regular golf even helps you live longer, according to a team of researchers 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,’ said lead researcher Dr Andrew Murray.

Dr Murray said that a typical 18-hole round involves a walk of between seven to 14 kilometres (4 to 8 miles) which exceeds minimum recommendations for regular exercise.

As a relative newcomer to golf, taking it up in retirement, I’m not at all sure about the health benefits which the researchers are claiming. I think it rather depends on how well you play the game.

I will acknowledge the physical exercise benefits. Indeed, I’m probably walking much more than the recommended minimum because I’m criss-crossing the fairway and hunting for balls that slice off into the bush.

Fresh air and sunshine might be good for you in Scotland but you can have too much of a good thing in Australia. I may avoid colon cancer by playing golf but there’s a real risk of skin cancer. It can be picturesque, particularly when the kangaroos come out to play.

As for heart attacks and stroke, much of my game is likely to bring it on rather than prevent it. That leaves mental benefits: like the anxiety of stepping up for a short putt which would give me my par – and the depression brought on by missing. Or the dementia which my partners seem to be suffering – they clearly can’t count!

I could go on; but I’m running late to meet the boys for a round of golf.

Len Horne

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