Does Golf Really Count as Exercise?

By far, golf is the most popular sport amongst adults — but does it really fulfill an adult’s exercise needs? If you watch golf on TV, you see the pros driving carts from drive to chip to put, and they have caddies toting their clubs everywhere they go. Even amateur golfers often spend a golf day eating high-calorie foods and indulging in boozy beverages, which hardly corresponds with working up a sweat.

Yet, the average golfer doesn’t always have these amenities. Not all courses offer golf carts for rent, and caddies can demand salaries between $50,000 and $100,000 per year — far beyond the typical amateur golfer’s budget. It’s easy to get your heart rate up and work your body if you skip the golf luxuries and play the links the old-fashioned way. Here are a few tips for getting in serious exercise while playing a relaxing game of golf.

Walk the Course With Your Bag

Your first step to getting exercise during your golf game is to abandon the cart, once and for all. Many of the best golf courses are best enjoyed by foot; walking allows you to take in the beautiful scenery and manicured lawns. However, more importantly, the average golf course is around 7,300 yards long – which equates to over four miles. By chasing your ball hither and thither across the green, hiking up and down hills and sand traps and otherwise moving wantonly around the course grounds, you can easily reach over 10,000 steps, and many golfers frequently clock 12,000 or more steps per 18-hole round

What’s more, those steps don’t account for the weight of your golf bag. If you have the requisite number of clubs — a driver, a 3 wood and 3 hybrid, various irons and wedges and a putter or two — your bag should weigh between 25 and 30 pounds.  When lugged for four miles it is no small burden. You are all but guaranteed to get your heart rate up and calories burning if you commit to carrying your bag to each and every hole.  You’ll feel more fulfillment in your game, too.

Watch Your Heart rate

Speaking of your heart rate, this is the best metric for measuring whether or not you are getting enough exercise. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advocates that adults complete between 75 and 150 minutes of vigorous, aerobic activity per week. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy measure for what counts as vigorous, aerobic activity. While you can assume that breathing hard and sweating is a good sign.  You don’t truly know how much your body is working unless you measure your heart rate.

To start, you should invest in a heart rate monitor, which you can buy online or at nearly any big box store that carries tech — smartwatches and fitness trackers also usually come equipped with heart rate monitoring tools. You need to measure your standing heart rate, which is your rate when you aren’t doing physical activity; then, you should measure your max heart rate when you are doing high-intensity exercise, like sprinting. When you are playing golf, you should try to get your heart rate to between 60 and 90 percent of your max.  This means you are improving your cardiovascular health and burning fat. If you find your heart rate calm at any point during your game, you might try to get more active with jumping jacks, squats, or practice swings.

Be Serious About Training 

Golf friends
Image by skeeze from Pixabay

It’s not a mystery why high-performing golf pros are well-muscled and lean; they need that extra strength for driving and controlling their ball. If you want to get fit and get serious about improving your golf game, you might want to consider enrolling in seasonal golf camps. For a few days or a week, you get hands-on experience with professionals and coaches.  They can give you more personalized advice for improving your game — and your fitness level, too. There are camps like these all around the country, but you should seek the one that most benefits you.

Golf can be a lazy, laid-back game that allows you to indulge and relax — or it can be a true athletic pursuit that gets and keeps you fit and healthy. How you approach the game will affect how it makes you feel and what you get from it.  You might think about ditching the cart on your next day on the links.

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