It is seen as a given that physical exercise has many benefits – in particular on our physical health, but aside from calories burnt, we tend to forget that sport can also do wonders for our mental health. Golf is a perfect example – it promotes social interaction, requires concentration and focus and is played outdoors, often in attractive lush settings. Furthermore, it is a sport that is suitable for almost everyone due to its moderate activity level.
The great outdoors
Ecotherapy, otherwise known as ‘green exercise’ which emphasises the importance of combining exercise with an outdoor activity can be applied to golf. Golf courses, even those in the city, are usually situated in attractive locations with green rolling hills, lakes and well maintained fairways.
A study conducted by the University of Essex found that undergoing exercise in rural and pleasant urban landscapes produces a greater positive effect on one’s self-esteem than just exercising alone, for example in a gym. So after a long day at the office, a few hours at a well maintained golf course could do heaps for your well-being.
Golf isn’t just reserved for nice sunny weather either – no, it is a game that can be played in all sorts of conditions, especially if you want more of a challenging game. So don’t let the ‘delightful’ English weather put you off taking up golf.
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Golf is a sport that promotes sociability; golfers often team up in pairs or play with up to 3 other individuals (discussing everything from friends and family to golf clubs and bags). This provides individuals with the opportunity to meet others, make friends and enhance relationships and avoid feelings of isolation and loneliness.
The World Health Organisation found that positive interpersonal interactions and social participation are crucial protective factors from developing mental health problems. Additionally, relaxing outdoors and interacting with people is reported to reduce your stress levels – this keeps blood pressure at normal limits and reduces the risk of a stroke.
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Focusing the mind
The Killingsworth and Gilbert study found that when people’s minds were constantly wandering, they reported a feeling of being less happy. Being able to focus on the task at hand means the mind is engaged and less likely to drift to negative or stressful thoughts, making a round of golf the perfect way to unwind after a long day.
Golf requires a tremendous amount of concentration – keeping an eye on where the hole is in relation to the ball, the amount of force required to hit the ball and getting the trajectory right to score that elusive hole in one.
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Although golf is seen as a moderate form of exercise, in an 18-hole game, golfers can walk more than 10,000 steps or around 5 miles – which quickly adds up over time! The distance walked is important as the NHS recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week – in the case of golf, this is easily achieved in a single round.
Likewise, wrist and body flexibility is important in golf – being able to twist your body and having the strength and power to hit the ball long distances is necessary to play well. The quote “a healthy body makes a healthy mind” is therefore very appropriate: the fitter and more physically able you are, the more positive you feel in yourself, and the happier you feel.
If this article still hasn’t convinced you, I urge you to make the most of the remaining British summertime – there is reportedly over 2,500 golf courses in the UK alone so there is really no excuse. Besides, you might even be able to top up your holiday tan.
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