August is National Golf Month, so it's a great time to get into the game or take some time out to perfect your swing if you already play. Golf is often seen as a leisurely activity, but it actually requires a good degree of physical fitness to play properly. Fortunately, practicing golf can have a number of health benefits, meaning the best way to improve is to get out and play a few rounds.
Even if you're not in top shape, golf is a great sport to pursue in senior communities, since its health benefits come with relatively little joint impact. In fact, a number of golf records have been set by people in their later years. According to Golf Grips, the record for longest drive (515 feet) was set by a 64-year-old, while the man who golfed the most holes in one week (1,850) was 70 when he set the record.
Preparing to play
Before you can master the swing, you first have to be in good enough shape to execute it properly. According to Men's Journal, flexibility is one key to developing a better golf game. Since a large part of the power of your swing comes from rotation, rather than swing, mobility is paramount to golfers. Hip rotation drives a swing's power, but your shoulders also need to be limber to help protect you from injury and ensure that you can follow through with the motion. Mobility exercises can be incorporated into any senior care workout, but golfers should be sure to stretch before each game as well, focusing on releasing tension in both the upper and lower body.
As the Journal pointed out, your feet need care, too. Although they're easy to overlook during a pre-game stretch, your feet actually get a lot of stress from walking the course all day. One of the best ways to keep feet limber and avoid too much soreness is with a quick massage. Luckily, golfers have everything they need for a foot massage close at hand. Golf balls double as great massage balls for feet. Just place a ball on the ground and apply pressure with one foot at a time while standing, then roll the ball over the bottom of your foot. If your golf balls are all lost in the rough, a lacrosse ball or any one of similar size should work.
The Harvard Medical School also advised a good warm-up before a game, adding that golfers may need to cool down afterward. If you notice any soreness after a round of golf, Harvard recommended icing the spot before it has time to develop into a major pain. Golfing can cause injuries in nearly any part of the body, both they're most common in the shoulders, back and hands.
Golf for health
Although there are some risks involved with playing golf, they're greatly outweighed by the potential benefits. According to Harvard, golfers can walk up to four miles in an average game, which makes the sport a good choice for cardiovascular health. Even more benefits can be derived from carrying your clubs while you walk.
A Swedish medical school, the Karolinska Institutet, found some dramatic health improvements from golfing, according to RedOrbit. A study conducted there found that golfers could add up to five years to their lifespan by playing regularly. Researchers found that deaths from any cause were lower among golfers than non-golfers, and the better they were at the game, the longer they were likely to live. Anders Ahlbom, the study's lead author, told the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports that the game could improve social and psychological well-being as well as promoting physical health.