Study Finds Playing Golf Has Significant Health Benefits

This article first appeared on in Oct 2016.

A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has found that playing golf is likely to have significant health benefits for people of all ages, genders and backgrounds, including an increased life expectancy, and a reduction in the effects of chronic disease and mental health problems.

Researchers reviewed 5000 studies into golf and well-being to build a comprehensive picture of the sport’s health benefits, as well as its potential drawbacks.

  • Findings show that golf is likely to improve cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic health.
  • Playing golf could also help those who suffer chronic diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colon and breast cancer and stroke, the study found.
  • The physical benefits of golf increase with age, researchers from the University of Edinburgh said.
  • Balance and muscle endurance in older people are improved by playing the sport, the review also found.
  • A regular game of golf can help players meet and exceed minimum government recommendations for moderate to vigorous physical activity.
  • The study found that golfers typically burn a minimum of 500 calories over 18 holes.
  • Golfers walking 18 holes can cover four to eight miles, while those using an electric golf cart typically chalk up four miles.
  • Increased exposure to sunshine and fresh air were found to be additional benefits.
  • The physical aspects of golf could also help reduce the risk of anxiety, depression and dementia, the researchers say.
  • The study is part of the Golf & Health Project, which is led by the World Golf Foundation. The initiative aims to increase the understanding of golf in health and well-being.
  • Future research will include the effects of golf on mental health, muscle strengthening and balance.

Lead researcher Dr Andrew Murray, from the Physical Activity for Health Research Center at the University of Edinburgh, said: “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.

“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.”

Padraig Harrington, captain at the 2020 Ryder Cup, three-time major champion and Golf & Health Ambassador, said: “The Golf & Health Project is clearly taking an important step forward to shine a light on the benefits of our sport.  I have seen how impactful golf can be on peoples’ well-being – now it’s time to get this message out there.”

Fellow ambassador Annika Sorenstam, a 12-time major champion, said: “Healthy living is a subject that’s very close to my heart, especially when it comes to educating the next generation. I strongly believe playing golf helps people stay fit, active and healthy. The Golf & Health Project will help all of us better promote the sport’s physical and mental benefits.”

Further information, news and features on the Golf & Health Project:, @GolfAndHealth on Twitter and ‘Golf and Health’ on Facebook.

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