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Take up golf to boost health, balance: panel

Playing golf is good for your mental and physical wellbeing and can add years to your life, but experts say too many people are missing out.

An article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine on Sunday said evidence shows playing golf regularly can reduce heart disease and stroke risk factors.

It also provides aerobic physical activity, can boost strength and balance in older people, is of benefit to mental health and improves overall health of those with disabilities with minimal risk of injury. It’s also very social and gets people outdoors and connecting with nature.

While around 60 million people play golf at least twice a year, the panel acknowledged the participant profile is quite narrow.

Players tend to be middle aged to older, male, of white European heritage, relatively well off, and living in North America, Europe and Australasia.

It is also often perceived as expensive, male-dominated, difficult to learn, and not a game for the young or those on the lower rungs of the social ladder.

The sport needs to be more inclusive and welcoming of people from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds, and any such initiatives should be supported, the panel said.

The panel, which includes Dr Andrew Murray of the University of Edinburgh’s Physical Activity for Health Research Centre, suggested that more people might be interested in taking it up if it was promoted as an enjoyable, outdoor activity that affords a sense of community and competitive challenge, as well as being good exercise.

The panel has drawn on a systematic review of the available published evidence (342 eligible studies) and discussions among an international working group of 25 experts in public health and health policy, and industry leaders.

It has also made a raft of recommendations to guide policy-makers and industry leaders on how to make golf more inclusive and accessible, and encourage more people from all walks of life to take it up.

The panel suggests golfers should aim to play for 150 minutes a week and walk the course rather than ride in a golf cart.

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