It’s the dreaded question during the festive excesses. ‘So, do you have any New Year’s resolutions?’
Given we’ve now hurtled into the early weeks of 2019, let’s hope any promises remain held and will powers remain intact. Keeping fit is often a best intention for many at the start of a new year, with gyms often crammed and new membership offers circulated.
But did you know that golf is one of the best sports for your health? Indeed, a project set up to study the health benefits of playing golf has delivered such compelling conclusions the UK government is showing interest. Put simply, there is now concrete evidence that playing golf has significant physical health and wellness benefits.
The research has come from the Golf & Health Project, which is studying the varied benefits, considering any risks and publishing their results in international, peer-reviewed journals. The Project has the full support of the World Golf Foundation, which comprises the major golfing bodies worldwide, including The R&A, The European Tour, USGA and the Masters Tournament.
Here, then, is a remarkable fact... Did you know if you play on every one of Perthshire’s SEVENTEEN 9-hole golf courses you will accumulate over 85,000 steps?!
While hitting the gym, grabbing your bike or heading for the pool are often highlighted as the perfect ways to stay fit, are golfers – indeed non-golfers – truly aware how many steps you achieve in a round of golf? With 10,000 steps the recommended daily average, playing an 18-hole round of golf achieves well in excess of that, with 9 holes racking up over 5,000.
It’s not just about steps. Research suggests playing golf can help you live FIVE years longer, sees you burn 1,500 calories in a round and decreases your risk of over 40 major chronic diseases, like type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, colon and breast cancer.
This is significant, especially as the World Health Organization has alerted the world to the global pandemic of physical inactivity. The statistics are compelling, with one in four adults and four in five adolescents insufficiently active.
So, who would have thought enjoying the glorious surroundings of Perthshire, savouring the fresh air and enjoying time with family and friends on the course would be so good for your health?
As a partner in the World Golf Foundation, The R&A has played a key role in the project activity, notably supporting the work of researchers at the University of Edinburgh – fronted by lead researcher Dr Andrew Murray. Andrew is also the Chief Medical Officer for The European Tour.
“There are so many things you can do these days,” notes Scotland’s Richie Ramsay, a three-time European Tour winner. “You could be on your phone or lap top and before you know it, hours have passed.
“Golf is out in the fresh air, walking, exercising. We’re fortunate we’ve got a doctor on Tour, Andrew Murray, and he comes out with a lot of stats about the health benefits of the game, not just physically but mentally. It refreshes you, gives you some downtime, out there having a chat with friends. You put away your phones and go out and enjoy the experience of playing the sport.”
The mental health aspect is notable, too, with the sport said to boost confidence and self-esteem. “The mental gain from playing golf - especially among seniors - could prove to be the sport's hidden gem,” says Dr Roger Hawkes, also a key driver of the Golf & Health Project.
“Mental health is a big thing in this day and age, and moderate physical activity is associated with a reduction in anxiety and a reduction in depression.”
For golfers, the health benefits of the sport have perhaps been long apparent, but the industry is now stepping up efforts to highlight golf’s benefits to help grow participation and membership levels – particularly to non-golfers and beginners.
At the first ‘International Congress on Golf and Health’ held in London last October, the benefits were outlined to an international audience, with leaders in public health, policy and sport backing golf in the race to tackle physical inactivity and the prevention of disease. The fact the event took place within the corridors of Westminster says it all.
Steve Brine MP, Minister for Public Health and Primary Care, was in attendance, as was Annika Sorenstam, a Golf & Heath Project ambassador and one of the world’s leading female golfers of all time.
It’s official then. Golf is SO GOOD for your health. Get out on Perthshire’s courses and enjoy!