Take up golf for fun, good health - The East African

Take up golf for fun, good health

Monday September 12 2011

By ALEX NDIRANGU

A game at a golf course can give you more health benefits than a workout session at the gym. It can also prove more fun, adventurous and leave you happier.

A walk on the golf course for example, exposes the skin to the sun’s rays which intensify the production of serotonin in the body — one of several “feel good” chemicals. Low levels of serotonin cause depression.

And while you can eat foods high in vitamin D, your body can make the entire amount of vitamins it needs just by catching some sun while playing golf. Vitamin D lowers the risk of developing some cancers including breast, ovarian, colon and pancreatic.

To ensure a complete workout, carry your clubs around the golf course rather than ride a cart or have a caddie carry them for you. This is because weight bearing exercises are great for your bones.

“When done two to three times a week, such exercises can create long, lean muscle mass, which helps support a strong skeleton that prevents bone degeneration, including osteoporosis — thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time,” says Dr Antony Rucho, an orthopaedic surgeon.

He, however, advises a balanced golf backpack with double straps to avoid back injury and to release stress on the shoulders.

Golf also reduces cholesterol levels. A single game can burn up to 1,000 calories, which is a great way to stay in shape and lose excess fat.

Indeed, a study from the Swedish Karolinska Institute conducted three years ago found that the death rate among golfers was 40 per cent lower than among people of the same sex, age and socioeconomic status who did not play the game. This corresponds to a five-year increase in life expectancy.

The study, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, was based on data from 300,000 Swedish golfers.
However, before taking up golf, it is advisable that you test your blood pressure to ensure your blood vessels, especially those that lead to the heart are in good shape. A regular massage will also ensure efficient blood flow in the body.

Like other outdoor games, golf can result in injury with back pain being the most common due to the repetitive swing.

Back exercises

Research has shown that specific back exercises, known as core strength and stability exercises, can prevent lower back pain.

Another common injury is the golfer’s elbow, an inflammation of the tendons of the forearm at the point where they insert into the humerus (upper arm) bone on the inner side of the elbow. This is mainly caused by gripping the golf club too hard.

Stretching the muscles that work over the wrist regularly will help.

Appropriate and comfortable footwear is also recommended to avoid pain in the heel, common among golfers who walk around the golf course.

Knee pain is also common. Weight bearing and rotational forces on the knee during the golf swing, in addition to prolonged walking, can aggravate existing injuries and cause pain.

To relieve the pain, exercises to maintain thigh and hamstring muscle strength that supports the affected joint will help. This should be done under the supervision of a physiotherapist to prevent further injury.

Repeated golf swings, particularly if there is a swing fault such as “chicken winging” (bent elbows at ball contact) or a “C-shaped posture” (rounded lower back) can lead to shoulder pain by putting excessive stress on the shoulders.

In addition, golf swing techniques should be checked by a professional to ensure the shoulder posture and co-ordination during the game doesn’t overload the rotator cuff muscles — small muscles around the shoulder joint.

In order to avoid injuries, and pulled muscles, it is important to warm up before playing golf and make a correct golf swing. In order to prevent further injury, it is wise to strengthen the torso, back and thigh muscles.