Golf is a very popular physical activity that appeals to men and women of all ages. Unlike many faster-paced sports that involve mostly teenagers and young adults, golf is the exercise of choice for many middle-agers and seniors. Because 18 holes of golf is a fairly time-consuming activity, it is particularly well-suited to retired persons.
Actually, a few hours of golf involve only a few minutes of demanding exercise, namely the forceful swinging action of the drives. Although brief, the explosive nature of the golf swing places considerable stress on the hip, back and shoulder joints, which may lead to a variety of injuries. It would therefore seem important for golfers to perform some stretching and strengthening exercises to condition their musculoskeletal system and reduce the risk of swing-related injuries. Obviously, pre-season preparation becomes a more critical concern for older golfers who have lower levels of muscle strength and joint flexibility.
While golf may be a captivating and satisfying activity, it has essentially no value in terms of fitness enhancement. And although there are certainly exceptions, it would appear that the majority of golfers are not exercise enthusiasts. Generally speaking, most golfers could benefit from regular participation in an appropriate exercise program.
Strength Training Misconceptions
Unfortunately, golfers have traditionally avoided those activities that are most useful for muscle strengthening and injury prevention. For years, golfers have shunned all forms of strength exercise for fear that it would reduce their joint flexibility and decrease their movement speed (7). Of course, there are many other myths that have scared golfers and other adults away from strength training. Leading misconceptions are that strength exercise increases bodyweight and blood pressure readings. Both of these assumptions are categorically untrue.
Strength Training Benefits
Research clearly demonstrates that properly-performed strength training significantly improves both body composition and blood pressure (1, 3, 12). In fact, sensible strength exercise has been shown to replace muscle (1, 12), increase metabolism (1), build bone density (8), reduce low back pain (9), decrease arthritic discomfort (11), improve glucose metabolism (4), accelerate gastrointestinal transit (6), and enhance blood lipid profiles (5, 10). ThatScale mul/_uOThickness xdef}ifelse} is, strength training is an effective deterrent to many of the degenerative problems that accompany the aging process (2).
Strength Training and Golf Driving Performance
There is even evidence that a basic program of strengthening and stretching exercises produces a more powerful golf swing. In the Summer 1995 issue of Nautilus Magazine, I reported the results of a preliminary study in which a small group of golfers performed 15 Nautilus exercises and six stretches, three days a week, for a period of eight weeks. At the completion of the training period, the participants recorded significant improvements in their golf driving power. Their maximum club head speed increased 6 percent (5 miles per hour), even though they did not practice golf during the two-month study period.
We have subsequently conducted a larger-scale study using the same conditioning program. By means of a newspaper article and an evening seminar featuring a golf professional, a stretching expert, and a strength training enthusiast, we convinced 17 serious golfers (13 males and 4 females) to participate in the eight-week exercise program.