How Golf Increases Life Expectancy

mature people playing golf
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It sounds too good to be true, but research has shown that playing a round of golf can add years to your life. Why? Think about it: a round of golf takes about 5 hours to play. During the entire round, the golfer is outside, walking and taking in the sun—activities that burn calories.

Playing 18 holes of golf burns 306 calories per hour if you carry your own clubs. If you use a pull-cart for your bag, you'll burn around 292 calories per hour. Riding a golf cart, you'll burn about 238 calories per hour.

While golf is a lifelong sport enjoyed by many, do these health benefits add up to a longer life?

The Research

Before diving in to the research, it's important to understand a little about the group who conducted it. The Swedish Golf Federation has more than 600,000 members. Membership is required for playing almost everywhere in Sweden, which means the list contains almost all of Sweden’s golfers.

Sweden also maintains a record of all of the deaths that have occurred in the country for the past several decades.

For the study, researchers in Sweden pulled information from both databases to study the impact golf may or may not have on mortality.

When comparing golfers and non-golfers, the researchers found that the golfers were 40 percent less likely to have died than non-golfers of the same age within the time frame they examined.

Not only is golfing good for your life expectancy in general, but the more a person golfs, the greater the increase in their overall health.

Adding golfers' handicaps to the equation revealed even more interesting findings.

Golfers with the lowest handicaps (indicating a better player who, in theory, golfs more frequently) had greater reductions in their risk of death compared to golfers with higher handicaps.

Why Golf Improves Life Expectancy & Longevity

While it's possible that golf offers specific health benefits that increase longevity, researchers also concede the answer is much more simple: the effect could be explained by the increase in exercise that golfers get.

The Swedish study's analysis did not compare the exercise levels of the non-golfers, so it's unknown if increased exercise explains golf's health benefits.

Other possible explanations include:

  • People with certain illnesses and health conditions cannot play golf, therefore a group of golfers being studied would only include healthy people.
  • People who golf are wealthier on average than people who don’t play the sport. Higher socioeconomic status is linked to better health.
  • In addition to exercise, being outside has stress-relieving and social benefits, which golfers likely get to take advantage of when playing a round.

How to Make the Most of Your Golf Game

The exercise benefits of a round of golf are very real and well-known. Here are some tips to make the most of your golf outing—even if it doesn't extend your life.

  • Follow a strict, no-cart policy. Walk the course if you can—you'll burn more calories and get the cardiovascular benefits.
  • Carry your clubs. If you are able to, carry your own clubs. You’ll build strength and endurance while burning more calories.
  • Improve your game. According to the study, the more you golf, the more you'll positively affect your longevity. Golfing more will improve your health and your handicap.
  • Beware the clubhouse. Beware of beers, hamburgers, and other clubhouse snacks that will replace the calories you burned on the green.
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