mahiruysal/iStock, Getty Images
(mahiruysal/iStock, Getty Images)

Hitting the golf course at least once a month could lower the risk of death among older adults, according to a new preliminary study.

Researchers found during the decade-long study that golfers had a death rate of 15.1% compared to 24.6% among non-golfers. About 25 million Americans play golf.

“Our study is perhaps the first of its kind to evaluate the long-term health benefits of golf, particularly one of the most popular sports among older people in many countries,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Adnan Qureshi, said in a news release. Qureshi is executive director of the Zeenat Qureshi Stroke Institute and professor of neurology at the University of Missouri in Columbia.

“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans does not yet include golf in the list of recommended physical activities. We are hopeful our research findings could help to expand the options for adults to include golf,” Qureshi said.

The research will be presented next Thursday at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles.

Researchers used data from the Cardiovascular Health Study, which began in 1989. Participants had extensive annual clinical exams and clinic visits every six months for 10 years. Once clinic visits ended, people were contacted by phone to ask about heart attack and stroke events.

Among nearly 5,900 participants, whose average age was about 72, researchers identified 384 golfers. The study did not specify whether the golfers walked or rode in a golf cart.

Although the rate of heart attacks and strokes didn’t appear to differ between golfers and non-golfers, researchers are investigating whether regularly playing golf impacts other health conditions. They also are performing additional analyses to determine whether gender and race of golfers alters the findings.

“While walking and low-intensity jogging may be comparable exercise, they lack the competitive excitement of golf,” Qureshi said. “Another positive is that older adults can continue to play golf, unlike other more strenuous sports such as football, boxing and tennis. Additional positive aspects are stress relief and relaxation, which golf appears better suited for than other sports.”

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