Golf for long life

There are those who say that golf is a good walk ruined. Then again, there are millions of people around the world who take up that ruination every weekend and sometimes more often. There must be some appeal to a game that, despite occasional reports of its decline, still manages to hold the interest of huge numbers of people. Whatever you may think of golf, a new study has suggested that it is certainly a healthy pursuit.

But first a bit of background about a game that, to the uninitiated, is a bizarre form of self-torture with an obscure scoring system calling into play various avian emblems from eagles to albatross. The origins of golf are usually attributed to Scotland although the Romans did play a game called “paganica”, in which participants used a bent stick to hit a stuffed leather ball. It is likely that paganica spread throughout Europe as the Romans conquered most of the continent, during the first century BCE, and eventually evolved into the modern game which did form itself in Scotland. The first written record of golf is James II’s banning of the game in 1457. Apparently James wanted the men of Scotland to be spending their time on archery to help in the wars against the English rather than wandering about the highlands trying to hit a ball into a hole with a club. Subsequent parliaments and kings of Scotland reinforced the ban until in 1502; with the signing of the Treaty of Glasgow between Scotland and England the ban was lifted (much to the chagrin of Scots golf widows).

The new study, however, was not Scots in origin but comes from Sweden, where they compared 300,000 Swedish golfers to the rest of the population. They found that compared to other people of the same age, sex and socioeconomic status, death rates are 40 per cent lower among golfers than the rest of the population. That translates to a five-year increase in life expectancy.

You can’t rule out that there are other lifestyle factors that may lead to this effect in golfers but the researchers believe that it is the golf itself. They say that golf entails being outside for four or five hours, walking at a steady pace for six to seven kilometres. There are also the social aspects to the game that mean it has psychological as well as physical advantages.

So, golf does seem to lead to a long life. Although for those of us not caught in its spell, maybe playing golf just makes life seem longer?

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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