Health professionals are being urged to refer older and inactive patients for golf lessons, after a new report showed that golf builds muscle strength, reduces blood pressure and improves life satisfaction.
As the The Open Championship begins this week and many viewers dust off their clubs for a trip to the local course, doctors and patients may also find inspiration in a joint report from ukactive, England Golf and Mytime Active.
Called Golf on Referral, the report is based on two research pilots that saw selected patients referred for a six-week behaviour change and golf lesson programme, with their mental and physical wellbeing tracked over the course of the project.
The programme was designed to take inactive people at risk of chronic conditions and introduce them to golf at the same time as incorporating group support, helping improve patients’ physical, mental and emotional health.
Researchers found that grip strength, a strong indicator of vitality in older people, increased significantly over the course of the study – suggesting improvements in muscle strength and therefore reduced risk of falls or disability.
Life satisfaction levels also rose across the vast majority of participants, along with happiness, highlighting clear benefits from the programme. Anxiety was shown to increase slightly – although it remained below the national average.
Other findings showed that participants:
• Trebled their amount of vigorous exercise per week
• Saw reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure
• Improved their golfing skills significantly
Steven Ward, ukactive CEO said: “We all know our national activity levels are well over par on where we need to be.
“Golf is a fantastic way to encourage people to be more active, particularly among parts of the population who may not be too engaged with other activities.
“This research shows that there are clear mental, physical and emotional benefits for Golf on Referral – we should look to roll out more of these programmes across the country as part of wider efforts to get the nation moving.”
Abbie Lench, England Golf Head of Club Support, commented: “We’re thrilled to see this scheme developing from our earlier research into the impact of playing golf on health and wellbeing, which we carried out with the support of Mytime Active and ukactive.
“It’s been exciting to see the results of the pilot schemes and to gain even more evidence that golf is good for health. We hope that golf on referral can be made more widely available in 2019.”
Pippa Bagnall, Mytime Active Head of Wellbeing said: “Improving physical strength, enjoying exercise in the fresh air, reducing health risks and developing new friendships is a wonderful way of enjoying life rather than giving in to ill-health.”