Walk or golf: The best exercise for a healthy heart over 65

It’s well-established that aerobic exercise can help prevent cardiovascular diseases.

However, most studies have tended to focus on younger people exercising at moderate to high-intensity levels. Much less research has been done on the impact of exercise on the more mature crowd, say folks 65 and up.

Even people I know who are only in their early 50s have a hard time with the likes of high-intensity interval training. But fortunately, there are more suitable options… like golfing or walking.

When asked if I play golf, I tend to point to a quote often misattributed to Mark Twain that actually came from a 1903 book about lawn tennis: “To play golf is to spoil an otherwise enjoyable walk.”

It’s easy for golf-shunners like me to assume that golf doesn’t have any value as exercise — at least not more so than walking.

That’s why I was drawn to a recent study comparing walking, golfing and Nordic walking that settles the argument as to which exercise could lead to a healthier heart and better blood pressure numbers…

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The cardiometabolic benefits of golf

Finnish researchers recruited a group of 25 healthy golfers — all aged 65 and above — and compared the effects of three different types of aerobic exercise on their blood pressure, blood glucose and blood lipid profiles.

The different exercises included an 18-hole round of golf, six kilometers of Nordic walking and six kilometers of normal walking, all conducted in a real-life environment.

Nordic walking is an enhanced walking technique in which people use poles to work their upper body along with their legs. Golf, walking and Nordic walking are popular forms of outdoor aerobic exercise that are safe and accessible for most mature adults.

In previous research, playing golf regularly has been associated with a lower risk of death from heart problems and a 40 percent lower risk of death from all causes. The latter statistic translates into an extra 5 years of life!

But how did golf stack up against the walking exercises?

The Finnish study showed all three types of aerobic exercise improved cardiovascular profiles in older adults, despite differences in duration and intensity, lowering systolic blood pressure (the top number). In addition, both walking and Nordic walking lowered diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number).

But although golf has a lower exercise intensity — compared with Nordic walking and walking — the game requires a longer duration, and that adds up to higher total energy expenditure. That seemed to have a greater positive effect on lipid profile (cholesterol) and glucose metabolism than the two types of walking exercises.

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Ways to incorporate golf into your life

If you’re already a golf player and you want to maximize its health benefits, make sure you bypass the golf cart. Most studies agree that walking the course is where a lot of golf’s health benefits come from.

If you’re a newbie, the best place to get used to the game is a practice range rather than a full-scale golf course. The range is the perfect place to start because it’s low pressure, and you can stay as long as you want without worrying about holding other players up.

Once you’ve tried it out and have decided to get more serious about playing golf, you may want to hire a coach. It’s true that there are plenty of videos online that can show you a golf swing. But it really helps to have a coach who can physically show you the proper way to hold and swing your club and help you make customized adjustments. You can find a PGA coach in your area here.

Not sure about taking up golf? Even watching golf live can help you get your steps in. Attendees of a European golf tournament were found to average around 11,500 steps per day during the event. So if you don’t fancy playing golf yourself, you might want to consider becoming a spectator for the walking benefits. Check out your local golf club to see when they’re holding tournaments and whether you need tickets to attend.

Editor’s note: There are perfectly safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and other secrets of long-lived hearts, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!


Playing golf may be just as healthy or better than Nordic walking for older people — EurekAlert!

Comparative effectiveness of playing golf to Nordic walking and walking on acute physiological effects on cardiometabolic markers in healthy older adults: a randomised cross-over study — BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine

“Golf is a Good Walk Spoiled,” said No One, Everyone — Good Walk Coffee Co.

Golf 101: Dos and don’ts for beginners — Golf

Carolyn Gretton

By Carolyn Gretton

Carolyn Gretton is a freelance writer based in New Haven, CT who specializes in all aspects of health and wellness and is passionate about discovering the latest health breakthroughs and sharing them with others. She has worked with a wide range of companies in the alternative health space and has written for online and print publications like Dow Jones Newswires and the Philadelphia Inquirer.