In response to a reader question, a wellness expert in The New York Times cited research that showed that golfing with a cart barely beats shuffleboard in terms of effort per minute. Walking the course while pulling a cart is 50 percent more effective, it was noted. Golf’s benefit for improving balance was also noted.
In The New York Times’ “Ask Well” blog, where journalists and experts respond to readers’ health questions, this query was posed:
Q: Is golf good exercise?
How many minutes of exercise does nine holes of golf with a cart, three times a week provide? I do whack away quite a bit.
The Times’ Gretchen Reynolds then provided this response:
A: Unfortunately, golf does not provide much of a workout, especially if you use a cart to transport yourself around the course. According to estimates by Stanford researchers and other groups, golfing with a cart requires slightly more effort per minute than shuffleboard but less than archery or juggling, neither of which is known for making people sweat.
The golf motion just does not demand much energy. According to the same calculations, practicing shots at a golf range uses about the same amount of energy per minute as tai chi.
However, walking the course while pulling your cart is considerably more taxing, adding about 50 percent to the effort required, according to the academic calculations. But even walking the course is a relatively light workout.
In an interesting 2010 study, 18 older men were asked to play nine holes of golf during one experimental session and to mow a lawn for 40 minutes in another. They wore equipment that measured their heart rates and energy expenditure. The men burned an average of 310 calories while playing the nine holes, compared with about 250 while mowing. But the time spent mowing was much shorter, so the exertion per minute and exercise intensity were considerably higher per minute during mowing than golf.
On the plus side, golf improves balance. In a 2011 study, older male golfers performed much better on several different tests of balance and physical confidence than men of the same age who did not golf. So, while golf is not vigorous endurance exercise, it should “increase both the physical and psychological aspects of balance control,” the study’s authors concluded.
These two online comments were also posted:
(From Rita): Just about any exercise is good if the alternative is just sitting. Granted golf is not the aerobic exercise needed for heart health. But walking 18 holes means you are moving around outdoors for 4 1/2 to 6 hours and walking about 3 1/2 miles.
Nine holes walking can be pretty good exercise. I only carry 12 clubs, 12 balls, one towel, two bottles of water, and a snack, but I’m still pulling at least 20 pounds. Some bags are much heavier.
Then, how hilly is the course? Some courses can be brutal to walk, particularly for older guys.
Being in my early sixties, I find 9 holes walking considerable exercise. On the days I play, I cut my daily workout in the gym from 2 hours to only 40 minutes.
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