Four ways golf brings your fitness up to par

Want to exercise more? Don’t limit your options to a gym membership — consider golf. It has more health benefits than you think.
Here are four ways hitting the links can have a positive impact on your overall health:

1. You’ll walk lots

If you leave the cart at the pro shop and walk with your clubs, golf is an excellent cardiovascular and strength-bearing activity.
“Golf is a better workout than most people think because you’re moving for four to five hours during an 18-hole round,” says Gary Ng, a Vancouver-based avid golfer and founder of the Vancouver Golf Review website. “If you’re not a fan of walking, golf will make it fun. It’s a great way to build stamina and endurance.”
Just be sure to limber up before heading out for a round, says Dr. Michael Chivers, a kinesiologist, acupuncturist and sports specialist chiropractor in Thornhill, Ont. A proper warm-up includes stretching, hitting balls and practising chipping and putting to ensure optimum performance and reduce the risk of injury.

2. You’ll get a good dose of vitamin D

While this is a benefit of being active outdoors, just be sure to take appropriate measures to protect yourself. Apply sunscreen frequently, wear a hat and sunglasses, and bring along a water bottle.
“Golf requires constant hydration, since you’re out exercising for a majority of the day and burning a lot of calories,” says Ng, who notes that lack of hydration can not only make you feel bad, it can affect your game. “Make sure you eat and drink properly to stay mentally sharp as you approach each hole.”

3. You’ll feel great

Chivers says that awesome feeling that comes with hitting a good shot or making a long putt is actually good for you. “This causes an endorphin release, which is important for overall health,” he says.

4. Improvement takes time, so you’ll practise constantly

Players are always trying to improve their game, whether by chipping or putting, or trying to shoot a lower score overall.
“Golf is a game that takes a lifetime to learn,” says Ng. “It forces you to challenge yourself to get better. The most rewarding part is seeing improvement in your game through good practice on the course.”
To help with this improvement, Chivers recommends golfers take lessons from a golf pro to have their swings analyzed. “From a biomechanical perspective this will allow potential ‘swing faults’ to be identified. The pro can then make recommendations on their correction,” says Chivers. Golf pros work at most golf courses and can also be found at many driving ranges.
Chivers also recommends new golfers get a physical examination from a family doctor and visit a chiropractor or physiotherapist who specializes in assessing and managing golfers. These professionals will work through a detailed screen of your body, including an assessment of joint mobility, strength and flexibility, focusing on the lower back and trunk, as well as the shoulders — the two most-often injured areas in golfers. From there, they will recommend either a home exercise or stretching program.

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