A global consensus among leaders in public health, public policy and
sport recently backed golf in the race to tackle physical inactivity. Golf also
was seen as an activity that helps the prevention of a range of
non-communicable diseases, which include heart disease, stroke, diabetes and breast
and colon cancer.
Evidence linking golf and health, commissioned by the World Golf Foundation and
supported by The R&A, was presented in mid-October at the 7th Congress of
the International Society for Physical Activity and Health in London. The
biennial scientific meeting is widely regarded as the world’s flagship physical
activity and public health event attended by more than 1,000 delegates from 60
Recognition that playing golf has significant physical health and wellness
benefits and can provide moderate intensity physical activity to people of all
ages comes just months after the World Health Organization published its Global
Action Plan for Physical Activity. The Global Action Plan targets one in four
adults, and four out of five adolescents (11-17 years) who are insufficiently
active, and charts how countries can reduce physical inactivity in adults and
adolescents by 15 percent by 2030.
The scientific consensus for golf is evidenced in research led by the
University of Edinburgh and published in the British Journal of Sports
Medicine. Findings reveal that playing golf is associated with a range of
physical and mental health benefits, and further collaborative efforts to
improve access for the sport are needed.
New studies are underway to discover if playing golf improves strength and
balance, contributing to a key public health goal of fall prevention in healthy
aging and into conditions such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
Marking the close of the ISPAH Congress, public health practitioners,
policymakers and golf industry leaders were hosted at a satellite event in the
Palace of Westminster by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf.
“Physical activity of any type comes with a range of physical, social and
mental benefits,” said Steve Brine, the Minister for Public Health and Primary
Care. “For some, golf can be a great way to stay active and there’s growing evidence
about ways the sport can help those living with long term conditions such as
Parkinson’s and dementia. And for those who haven’t discovered their favorite
sport yet it’s never too late to get inspired, connect with people and improve
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, echoed Brine’s sentiments.
“Golf is working hard to
encourage more people into the sport, who will realize its many health benefits,”
Slumbers said. “With 60 million golfers spanning six continents, golf has found
common purpose in working with public health practitioners and policymakers to
optimize the health benefits of playing the sport.
“We recognize the importance of the World Health Organization Global Action
Plan for Physical Activity and we will work with our affiliates and partners
around the world to help improve health and well-being through golf.”
Professor Fiona Bull, WHO Program Manager, added: “Non-communicable disease is
responsible for nearly three-quarters of all premature deaths globally,
including 15 million deaths per year in people aged 30 to 70 years.
“The new World Health Organization global action plan and the implementation
toolkit ‘ACTIVE’ aims to help all countries improve the environments and the
opportunities for all people to be more active. Golf is a popular sport for men
and women and it is great to see golf’s global leadership recognizing health
priorities and identifying ways golf can be more accessible to more people.
“I took up golf in my 30s but thought it was a very technical, expensive and
elitist sport. Thankfully a six-week ‘Come and try course’ showed me how easy
it was to enjoy golf as a beginner and how active playing nine holes can be. I
am looking forward to seeing how golf can attract many more girls and women to
enjoy the sport and be more active and healthy.”
Ten-time Major Champion Annika Sörenstam is a global ambassador for golf and
health. She said the recent international consensus statement highlighted that
golf is great for the health of people of all ages and benefits those playing
the sport and even tournament spectators.
“Given the health benefits, we must work together to make golf more accessible
if we are to achieve our sport’s full potential,” Sörenstam said.
The 2018 International Consensus Statement on Golf and Health to guide action
by people, policymakers and the golf industry was published in September in the
British Journal of Sports Medicine.