Playing golf may be even healthier for seniors than trendy Nordic walking, suggests a new study.
Regular rounds are “particularly good” exercise for older adults, say scientists.
Their findings, published in the journal BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, show that people over the age of 65 could derive more health benefits from playing golf than participating in regular walking or Nordic walking with poles.
The health advantages of physical exercise in helping to prevent a heart attack or stroke are well documented as part of efforts to stave off high blood pressure, diabetes and dyslipidaemia, an abnormal amount of lipids in the blood causing problems such as high cholesterol.
However, most relevant studies have tended to focus on younger people participating in acute bouts of exercise lasting 30 to 60 minutes at moderate to high intensity with less information available on the impact of exercise on older people.
Golf, walking and Nordic walking – an enhanced walking technique in which people use poles to work their upper body as well as their legs – are popular age-appropriate forms of outdoor exercise that are safe and easily accessible for many older people.
Researchers in Finland set out to compare the acute effects of the three different types of aerobic exercises on markers of cardiometabolic health in terms of intensity, duration and energy expenditure.
They conducted a study involving 25 healthy golfers aged 65 and above, comparing the effects of three acute aerobic exercises: an 18-hole round of golf, six kilometers (3.7 miles) of Nordic walking, and a six km walk – on their blood pressure, blood glucose, and blood lipid profile in a real-life environment.
The team took blood samples, blood glucose finger-prick tests, and measured the participants’ blood pressure.
Participants also wore fitness measuring devices to log exercise-specific distance, duration, pace, energy expenditure and steps, as well as wearing an ECG sensor with a chest strap to record their heart rate.
Study author Julia Kettinen said: “The results showed that all three types of aerobic exercise improved the cardiovascular profile in older adults when performed in acute bouts despite differences in duration and intensity, lowering their systolic blood pressure while walking and Nordic walking also led to a decrease in diastolic blood pressure.
“However, despite the lower exercise intensity of golf compared with Nordic walking and walking, it was the longer duration and higher total energy expenditure involved in playing golf that seemed to positively affect lipid profile and glucose metabolism.”
She said the study had some limitations such as the small sample size, and the accuracy of the fitness devices was debatable.
And the researchers only recruited golfers for the study because it was thought that non-golfers could not be expected to play a round of golf properly, while Nordic walking was seen as a new type of exercise for most participants, which may have led to poor technique, therefore decreasing the effectiveness of the Nordic walking activity.
But Ms. Kettinen, a doctoral researcher at the University of Eastern Finland, said: “Despite the lower exercise intensity of golf, the longer duration and higher energy expenditure appeared to have a more positive effect on lipid profile and glucose metabolism compared with Nordic walking and walking.”
She added: “These age-appropriate aerobic exercises can be recommended to healthy older adults as a form of health-enhancing physical activity to prevent cardiovascular diseases and can also be used as a treatment strategy to improve cardiometabolic health among those who already have a cardiovascular disease.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker.
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