Friday, January 27, 2012

Turfgrass and Golf Enhance Physical Health

Several studies have documented an enhanced state of satisfaction from viewing a diverse, pleasant landscape.  In one study, homeowners close to a natural landscape reported increased neighborhood satisfaction.  In fact, almost half of those who live on golf courses are non-golfers.  In another study, hospital patients given an outdoor view of trees and grass recovered more rapidly than patients with out a view of nature.

Golf, an increasingly popular sport, brings improved mental and physical health to a large segment of the population.  These benefits are not limited to those who play on private golf courses.  More than 24 million people play golf, and more than 78% of all rounds are played on public courses.

The recreational benefits of golf are important in an industrialized society, where many employees spend their entire working day indoors and sitting down.  In urban areas, finding comparable green space and mild exercise may be especially difficult.  Some research suggests that viewing open green space can promote quicker recovery from stress compared to viewing typical urban or mall scenes.  Golf courses fill in a subtle yet important need in these areas.

The benefits of exercise through golf can be significant.  Regular physical activity and leisure time activity are associated with less coronary heart disease and increased longevity.  Most studies have suggested that these benefits result from vigorous exercise that elevates high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels.  However, in recent research, these health benefits have been associated with milder exercise, such as a walking program.

One study specifically evaluated the potential of golf as a walking program to promote HDL-C levels and thus reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.  In this study, golfers who played and walked 18 holes three times per week for a three-month period were able to improve the ratio of HDL-C to total cholesterol (and lose over three pounds) with out any changes in dietary habits.

Many exercise programs fail because they are discontinued – not because they are ineffective.  Golf, as a recreational sport, has a high rate of compliance and appeals to all ages and both sexes.  Under a physician’s guidance, walking the golf course can even become a valuable part of an exercise recovery program for cardiac patients.