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Golf’s hidden benefits: muscle strength and balance

POSTED ON October 1, 2020 @ 7:35 pm

R&ADo you want to improve your muscle strength and balance? Then golf is the sport for you, according to new study backed by the R&A.

Muscle strength and balance exercises form an important part of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended guidelines to tackle physical inactivity in older people about which little was previously known for golf.

Hidden Benefits

The Strength and Balance Study, carried out with two sample groups over two years by Professor Maria Stokes OBE at the University of Southampton and Dr George Salem at the University of Southern California (USC), has indicated that older golfers have and develop strength and balance benefits.

Underlining the sport’s capability to improve the physical health of participants, the evidence suggests golf can improve quality of life through muscle strengthening, improved balance, aerobic exercise (equivalent to gym-based work or yoga) and social interaction.

The Southampton group involved 152 individuals aged 65-79 and over 80 and set out to demonstrate the physical and psychosocial benefits associated with playing recreational golf regularly by comparing physical measures between older golfers and sedentary non-golfers.

A study at the USC was undertaken to see if non-golfers developed these benefits while undertaking a 10-week instructional golf training programme. The USC group involved 15 individuals aged 63 (+/- 5 years) at a municipal course in the greater Los Angeles area, which also examined the feasibility, safety and adherence of the programme for senior non-golfers.

Key findings

The combined findings show that:

  • Participants in the golf training programme improved their muscular strength, power, endurance, balance, flexibility and walking performance
  • Golfers under the age of 80 had better strength and balance than sedentary non-golfers of similar ages
  • Golfers had better dynamic balance and static balance than non-golfers
  • Strength of limb muscles and balance were better in golfers than non-golfers e.g. indicative through gripping and swinging a club, walking, squatting
  • The golf training programme was feasible and effective; novice golfers were able to play 9 holes of golf by the 10th week and completed 282 of 300 (94%) total training sessions
  • The physical demands recorded during a golf round were equivalent or greater than the demands for other common activities e.g. gym work or yoga
  • Participants benefited from green space, social interaction and walking over hilly terrain
  • The programme was safe; there were no golf-related injuries or adverse events

 
The R&A Golf and Health Report (2016-20) can be viewed here.

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