Many older adults struggle with finding age-appropriate aerobic exercises that can help maintain their health and well-being.
Walking is often the go-to aerobic exercise for an easy and simple activity that most people can do.
A new study published in BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine has revealed that golf, despite its lower intensity, might be even better when it comes to promoting cardiometabolic health in older adults.
The Study: Comparing Golf, Nordic Walking, and Walking
The research examined the acute effects of three age-appropriate aerobic exercises on cardiometabolic markers in healthy older adults: 18-hole golf, 6 km Nordic walking, and 6 km walking. Participants included 25 older golfers, with a mean age of 68 years.
Nordic walking involves walking with specially designed poles to engage the upper body muscles and create a more whole-body workout.
The study compared the effects of these activities on blood pressure, blood glucose, and blood lipid profiles in real-life settings. The results revealed that golf showed a more significant positive impact on lipid profiles and glucose metabolism compared to Nordic walking and walking.
Understanding Cardiometabolic Markers and Their Importance
To truly appreciate the benefits of golf for older adults, it might help to clarify the significance of these cardiometabolic markers that were studied. These markers are indicators of cardiovascular health and can help determine the risk of heart disease and other related health issues.
- Blood glucose: High blood glucose levels can lead to insulin resistance and, eventually, type 2 diabetes. Maintaining healthy blood glucose levels reduces the risk of diabetes and associated complications.
- Blood lipid profile: This refers to the levels of various fats in the blood, including triglycerides and cholesterol. A healthy lipid profile helps prevent the development of atherosclerosis, reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
- Blood pressure: High blood pressure can lead to various cardiovascular problems, such as heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure. Managing blood pressure is crucial for maintaining overall heart health.
Why Golf Is a Suitable Exercise for Older Adults
Golf offers several unique advantages as a form of exercise for older adults:
- Low impact: Unlike high-impact sports, golf is gentle on the joints, making it an ideal choice for those with arthritis or joint pain.
- Social benefits: Golf provides a social atmosphere, allowing older adults to connect with friends and family, fostering a sense of belonging, and reducing feelings of isolation.
- Cognitive benefits: Golf requires strategy, focus, and concentration, which can help improve cognitive function and mental sharpness.
- Exposure to nature: Spending time outdoors on the golf course can have a positive effect on mental wellness, reducing stress and anxiety.
- Scalable difficulty: Golf can be adapted to various skill levels and physical abilities, making it an accessible option for older adults with differing fitness levels.
Adding Golf to Your Exercise Routine
You don’t need to be a professional golfer to enjoy the health advantages. Playing casually with friends or family can still provide the desired outcomes.
Here are some extra tips to help get started:
- Begin with lessons or clinics tailored to older adults at your local golf course or community center. These programs can help you learn the basics and ensure you’re using proper techniques to avoid injury.
- Invest in appropriate gear, such as clubs suitable for your skill level and comfortable golf shoes.
- Start with shorter rounds, such as 9 holes, and gradually build up to playing 18 holes as your fitness and endurance improve.
- Remember to warm up and stretch before playing to reduce the risk of injury.
- Consider playing with friends or joining a seniors’ golf league to combine the health benefits of golf with the social advantages.
The Benefits Extend Beyond Golf
While golf showed the most substantial positive effect on cardiometabolic markers, it’s worth noting that all three activities—golf, walking, and Nordic walking—improved cardiovascular profiles in older adults. Each activity led to significant decreases in systolic blood pressure, with Nordic walking and walking also showing decreases in diastolic blood pressure.
The takeaway here is that engaging in regular aerobic exercise, regardless of the specific activity, can help promote cardiovascular health and improve overall well-being in older adults.