Swing your way to better health: How golf can benefit over 65s

Feb 14, 2023
Researchers examined 25 healthy golfers aged 65 and over, comparing the effects of an 18-hole round of golf, 6km of Nordic walking, and a 6km walk. Source: Getty Images.

While slogging it out at the gym day after day can help improve your health, it turns out that a leisurely day on the green can also have health benefits, particularly for those over 65.

As part of the Comparative effectiveness of playing golf to Nordic walking and walking on acute physiological effects on cardiometabolic markers in healthy older adults: a randomised cross-over studyresearchers from the University of Eastern Finland examined the immediate physiological cardiovascular effects of playing a round of golf, walking, and Nordic walking.

The researchers examined 25 healthy golfers aged 65 and over, comparing the effects an 18-hole round of golf, 6km of Nordic walking, and a 6km walk had on blood pressure, blood glucose, and blood lipid profile in a real-life setting.

Researchers took blood samples, blood glucose finger-prick tests, and measured the participant’s blood pressure. The study subjects also wore fitness measuring devices to measure factors such as distance, duration, pace, energy expenditure, and steps. Participants also wore ECG sensors to measure their heart rates.

The researchers found that all three types of aerobic exercise improved the cardiovascular profile in older adults when performed in acute bouts despite differences in duration and intensity – lowering their systolic blood pressure while walking and Nordic walking leading to a decrease in diastolic blood pressure.

It was discovered that all three forms of aerobic exercise improved their cardiovascular profile even when done briefly and with varying intensity and duration, among participants. Walking and Nordic walking reduced systolic blood pressure, while only Nordic walking resulted in a decrease in diastolic blood pressure.

Researchers also discovered that although golf has a lower exercise intensity compared to Nordic walking and walking, the longer duration and higher total energy expenditure during a round of golf made it more challenging, leading to a positive impact on lipid profile and glucose metabolism.

The first author of the article Julia Kettinen, Doctoral Researcher in Sports and Exercise Medicine at the Institute of Biomedicine of the University of Eastern Finland said the findings suggest that the exercises studied could improve health outcomes for older adults.

“These age-appropriate aerobic exercises can be recommended to healthy older adults as a form of health-enhancing physical activity to prevent cardiovascular diseases and can also be used as a treatment strategy to improve cardiometabolic health among those who already have a cardiovascular disease,” Kettinen said.

In addition to the exercises mentioned above, researchers recently examined a new health and fitness method that could improve the quality of life for over 65s.

Known as ‘exercise snacking’, the method entails short bursts of regular bodyweight at-home strength training that can include a routine of several different exercises such as single-leg knee bends, sit-to-stand, or single-leg quarter squats performed continuously for one minute with a one-minute recovery break in-between.

Project lead Dr Jackson Fyfe of Deakin’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) said it was important to break down common barriers to fitness that older Australians face and ensure seniors are implementing healthy habits to ensure their well-being and independence.

As part of the study, researchers brought in 38 male and female participants aged 65 to 80 who did not partake in regular resistance training and split them into four groups.

One group was a control group that did not exercise, another group exercised for five minutes per day, and two groups that exercised for five minutes twice a day or three times a day for four weeks.

The researchers discovered that between 81 and 97 per cent of those in the exercise groups stuck with their fitness routine.

Of those who stuck with their workouts, 82 per cent said they planned to continue exercising once the study had concluded.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up