Playing the long game: New study finds golf can help you live longer

The Course at Sewanee in Tennessee is just nine holes but a sublime, gently rolling course with two greenside lookouts.

The next time you are seeking a hall pass from family or work to play golf, keep this little nugget in your back pocket:

Golfers live longer. No, really.

The latest evidence is in a study that will be released later this month. But CNN received a preview and reported the findings. Predictably, they chose to take a political angle as the lede. Let's breeze past that and go straight to the experts:

When comparing death rates among golfers and non-golfers, researchers found that golfers had a more than 8% lower death rate (from all causes) than non-golfers. While playing golf hasn't been shown to reduce risk of heart attack and stroke, golf as a protective factor against early death risk is a suitable activity option for older adults due to its low impact and relaxed nature.
Dr. Adnan Qureshi, the study's lead author and neurology professor at the University of Missouri.

Reports surface of the health benefits fairly regularly - thanks in part to the walking, the sunshine, the nature, the camraderie and even some competition - all things human beings crave and golf can supply.

"While walking and low intensity jogging may be comparable exercise, they lack the competitive excitement of golf. Regular exercise, exposure to a less polluted environment and social interactions provided by golf are all positive for health," Qureshi said.

This is by no means the first report to conclude golfers have a chance to live longer. In 2016, an Edinburgh study found golfers lived on average five years longer than non-golfers. It also said playing golf could help those who suffer chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and even colon and breast cancer. That is not a claim the most recent study supports, however.

GolfandHealth.org. supported by the World Golf Foundation, has outlined numerous benefits backed by studies in recent years. Among them:

- Mental health: Physical activity (such as golf) is known to be effective in treating mild-moderate depression
- Physical health: Golf may help reduce the risk of falls and help older people live independently
- Social health: Golf has been shown to enhance interaction between different generations, and has been proven to provide opportunities to enhance social connections.
- Attending a live golf event has shown an average of over 11,500 steps per day.

With various municipalities across the globe struggling with what to do about their golf facilities in the red, it could be reassuring to city health officials that these public spaces, while money losers, are at least having a positive impact on the health of its residents.

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Scientific study proves golf is good for your health

Brandon Tucker is the Sr. Managing Editor for GolfPass and was the founding editor of Golf Advisor in 2014, he was the managing editor for Golf Channel Digital's Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and nearly 600 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at @btuck34.
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I am an avid golfer but I believe the biggest benefit is from walking. Unfortunately few people walk anymore. I think that 20 years from now the same studies will not show positive benefits unless players get back to walking.

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If there is any science in this, it only proves what is already known, that people in a higher socio-economic group, with more leisure time, live longer. There are physical and social benefits to be sure, but too many variables here to pretend it is cause and effect.

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The study does not appear to claim cause and effect. Did you click on the results? It notes that golf is a "suitable activity option for older adults," as well as noting that getting enough sleep and eating a balanced diet also help regarding longevity. The authors rather cautiously speculate that golf is an activity that seems to have rewards that lead to persistence. I used to do light jogging. Frankly, golf is more engaging. To demonstrate cause and effect a study would need a number of control groups, perhaps including some form of "placebo golf," yes?

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Our local public course just outside Asheville, NC is up for sale. The current course manager has allowed walking when specifically requested. What do you suggest us walking golfers do if new ownership/ management rescinds this walking friendly (informal) policy?

Thanks as always,

JR

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Playing a nine hole course brings its rewards for the over 65s. and those pressed for time working in a big city like London.

I play at Woodford in northeast London on the edge of Epping Forest if you looking to de stress and living in London look it up on golf Now it’s a little gem in the forest and playable all year round. www.woodfordgolf.co.uk

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For those of you who don’t understand junk science, here you go. That golfers live longer doesn’t directly link golf to longevity. It could be like saying basketball makes you taller.

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For those who actually do understand how to read science, the study does NOT claim cause and effect. Even if you just read the title: "Golf can help you live longer," the report itself also notes that so can eating properly and getting any form of regular exercise. I actually clicked on the results, and there's not a word about any "direct links to longevity." Nice try though, and, basketball could also help you live longer, if not taller.

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Nah! It just seems that way, on a Sunday afternoon behind a group that has no idea how to use their carts to speed up play.

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As a physician I would tell you this may be a flawed study unless it provided separate statistics for those golfers who walk regularly and those will always ride. If, in fact, the benefit is found only to apply to walkers is it any different from those who walk or run regularly.

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Playing the long game: New study finds golf can help you live longer