#WhyIGolf – Health and Wellbeing: Women in midlife can find fitness on fairways

Golf’s ability to exercise both body and mind while having the added benefits of promoting fun and friendship makes it the ideal sport for women searching for a new and healthy and activity in midlife.

A recent research project by Women in Sport discovered that females in the 40-60 age group – many of whom were experiencing the menopause – struggled to incorporate healthy exercise into their busy daily routine.

In fact, 33% of women in this age category fail to reach the recommended daily targets for exercise as promoted by the chief medical officer.

Interestingly, time and cost were not the biggest barriers to participation. Psychological aspects of playing a sport often outweighed all other factors.

A fear of starting a new hobby or a concern about being judged because of their age, physique or ability often offset the desire to do something positive to boost health and wellbeing.

The findings from the Women in Sport research study has now prompted a fresh conversation about how the sport sector can best engage with this group of women who want to take up a new activity – but are nervous about how to go about it.

According to Liz Prinz from Women in Sport, golf is perfectly placed to tick all the boxes that would lead women to embrace a healthier lifestyle.

Last week England Golf welcomed competitors to Woodhall Spa for a series of national finals – women taking part in the Medal Finals and Australian Spoons events (pictured below) enjoying all the benefits of a fun, outdoor activity that stimulates mental and physical health.

The task is now for the game to reach out to this sometimes-forgotten generation of participants and inspire newcomers to pick up a club for the first time.

“From our research we developed five principles for the sport sector to think about when trying to engage women in this life stage,” admitted Prinz.

“Golf absolutely answers some of these principles.

“England Golf already has some really good social programmes for women that emphasises the social aspect of the game.

“It’s also a gentler way to be active than to join a football team or go to a HIT class.

“It’s a gentler way to be outdoors in nature and get that mental wellbeing side of being active.

“Another thing we found is that women want to lose weight but that’s a long-term goal.

“If they show up for a session or two and they are not losing weight then you need something else to get them excited about coming.

“It can take a few sessions to get the motivation, but you can certainly get it from sports like golf.

“Another piece of research into women and Covid highlighted an appreciation of being outdoors.

“Golf fulfils that and overcomes any anxiety about people being indoors during Covid.”

For women in midlife and experiencing the menopause, they can often get caught up in what Prinz calls a ‘perfect storm.’

They are maybe unable to sleep at night and then need caffeine and sugar hits during the day which then leads to a crash and even more problems when it comes to fatigue and disturbed sleep patterns.

Women in midlife are also often caught up still looking after children and working full-time while also dealing with elderly parents – meaning time to engage in a sporting activity is further reduced.

That’s where golf’s ability to be enjoyed in ‘bite-sized’ chunks should be used to appeal to women.

A visit to a driving range, pitch and putt course or beginner lessons can all be enjoyed in a shorter time frame than a traditional 18 holes of golf.

The onus on the golf industry is to make sure that this is communicated to the right audience and in such a way that the inevitable worries about trying something new for the first time can be allayed.

“The women in our research had a really limited perception of exercise,” added Prinz.

“Before the research they thought about walking, running, swimming or going to a gym.

“When they looked into it they found other really interesting things and golf can certainly come into that.

“The fear of judgement is something we say to the sports sector. Are you showing women their age and physique and telling their story?

“If women are worried about being judged about their weight, their age, their skill level then they are not going to take that first step. They need support and reassurance.

“They ask: ‘If I wanted to try this aged 50 would there be a space for me?’

“Fun is so important – that’s what keeps people coming back.”

Women in Sport’s qualitative research project involved 30 women over a four-month timespan reporting on the highs and lows of their days and how this was affected by the menopause.

Asking women to reframe their perception of health and wellbeing gives a sport such as golf an opportunity to reach out to a new audience.

Prinz added: “This is an opportunity – when women are reappraising their values – to get fit.

“It’s not too late for women in their 40s and 50s to do something active and golf absolutely comes into this conversation.”

Click here to read Women in Sport’s research in full.