Abertay University – Golf and Physical Health: Systematic Review Summary

Research from Abertay and York St John University have produced a systematic review of the various health and wellbeing benefits of golf that has been published in ‘Sports Medicine’…

Researchers from Abertay and York St John University have an ongoing research agenda relating to golf activity, health and well-being. Golf provides individuals with opportunities to increase or maintain light-to-moderate intensity physical activity levels, which could ultimately lead to improvements in physical health. Raising awareness with regards to the potential physical health benefits that golf can have for an individual is crucial since golf can offer alternative ways to increase or maintain physical activity levels.

With the popularity of golf ever-growing, and the research within the area developing, a recent review was conducted to establish the overall influence of golf participation on physical health within golfers and caddies. As part of the review, the researchers reviewed a total of 109 articles, with 23 meeting the overall criteria for inclusion within the review itself. Firstly, the review established that golf may positively influence a golfer’s balance. There is a clear link between balance and the number of falls, which might prove to be beneficial to golfers. Also, it was found from a limited number of studies that lower limb muscular strength may be improved through caddying.

Golf could potentially improve several cardiovascular risk factors by lowering blood pressure through short-term golf interventions. Longer-term golf interventions could be more favourable in golfers with higher blood pressure, yield reductions in abdominal fat thickness and waist circumference, as well as improve HDL cholesterol levels. High levels of HDL cholesterol are beneficial as they aid in the protection of the cardiovascular system from associated diseases.

From the studies included within the review, it is suggested that golf does not improve muscular strength and maximal aerobic fitness levels; However, golf does improve sub- maximal exercise performance, which may lead to greater efficiency and less cardiovascular demand on golfers.

The research group (Dr. Graeme Sorbie, Dr. Ashley Williams and Professor David Lavallee from Abertay University, and Dr. Alexander Beaumont from York St John University (School of Science, Technology & Health)) commented that:

“On conducting this review, it is encouraging to see that many studies report the health advantages that golfers and caddies can benefit from, although there were many factors that likely influence the effectiveness of golf on physical health. Before we can fully understand the true extent that playing golf can have on our physical health, we need more long-term studies. These studies may include the consideration of the type, duration and population of golfers that include female and male golfers of differing age ranges.”

A comment was made by Dr Andrew Murray – Medical and Scientific Adviser- The R&A: “This high quality research published in a top academic journal highlights some physical health benefits of golf (including cardiovascular and metabolic”), and what further research may be helpful. This is part of an important program of work and collaboration between Abertay, York St John that looks at golf, physical health, well-being as well as injury.”

Abertay University and York St John researchers are continuing their collaboration into the golf related effects on health, well-being and injury.

Click here to download open access Systematic Review paper

By Aston Ward