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Heart Health

Appreciating golf's cardiovascular perks

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By , Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

photo of an older couple on a golf course pulling their clubs on wheeled carts, accompanied by their grandson

Golf is jokingly described as a good walk spoiled. But that walk is loaded with cardiovascular health benefits — maybe even more than you'd get from an hour of brisk walking or Nordic walking, suggests a small, randomized study published online Feb. 6, 2023, by BMJ Open Sport and Exercise Medicine. Researchers asked 25 healthy, experienced golfers (men and women ages 65 or older) to complete three different types of exercise within a five-day period (just one activity per day). The exercises included one 18-hole round of golf on foot (pulling golf clubs), one hour of brisk walking, and one hour of Nordic walking (which involves the use of poles). On exercise days, participants ate identical breakfasts and snacks; had their blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol measured before and after exercise; and wore activity trackers. All three activities lowered blood pressure and levels of blood sugar and cholesterol. But golf seemed to have slightly more effect on blood sugar and cholesterol, at least in the short term. Scientists speculate it's because of the game's long duration (three to four hours) and the extra energy required to drag heavy clubs around a golf course. In fact, golfing burned more than twice as many calories as the walking activities. Because the study was small, a larger, longer-term study would be needed to confirm the results.

Image: © Ronnie Kaufman/Getty Images

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About the Author

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Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Heidi Godman is the executive editor of the Harvard Health Letter. Before coming to the Health Letter, she was an award-winning television news anchor and medical reporter for 25 years. Heidi was named a journalism fellow … See Full Bio
View all posts by Heidi Godman

About the Reviewer

photo of Anthony L. Komaroff, MD

Anthony L. Komaroff, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Health Letter

Dr. Anthony L. Komaroff is the Steven P. Simcox/Patrick A. Clifford/James H. Higby Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, senior physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and editor in chief of the Harvard … See Full Bio
View all posts by Anthony L. Komaroff, MD


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