Everyone knows that physical activity is a vital part of mental health. But golf isn’t often the first thing you think of when it comes to getting in a good workout!
It’s true that it’s a more relaxed kind of sport, but that’s just one of the things that makes it excellent for both physical and mental health.
It’s the perfect balance between brain-stimulating and muscle-stimulating, and it’s accessible to just about everyone. Chances are there’s a beautiful golf course just around from you, wherever you are!
If you’re spending more time thinking about your mental health, here’s why you should try golf as a way of boosting it.
It Gets You Moving
When people think about playing sport as a way of getting some exercise, golf isn’t usually the first sport that comes to mind.
Most people see golf as a relaxed activity that doesn’t do much for either cardiovascular health or strength. However, that’s pretty far from the truth.
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of activity every week for optimal health. You can get that whole amount of exercise in one round of golf!
For the best results, choose to walk the course instead of taking a golf cart, or at the least, alternating between the cart and walking on each hole.
Something as simple as walking a golf course (3 to 5 miles) will make a huge difference to your health. Exercise, even as simple as walking, stimulates the release of endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals.
In essence, something as simple as moving around a golf course (swinging away and walking from shot to shot) can get your blood pumping and happy hormones circulating, making a big difference to your mental health.
It Keeps You Fit
As they say, your outer world reflects your inner world and it’s easy for poor physical health to contribute to a decline in mental health. It’s in your best interest to get that movement in, but there is a little more to it than those 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise.
Golf is a full-body exercise. With regular swinging, you can expect to develop your chest muscles, biceps, abdominals, obliques, and glutes. The bonus is that it’s also low-impact which protects your joints.
So why is this important for mental health? Well, apart from the obvious benefit of getting the serotonin flowing, the healthier your body is, the healthier your mind will be.
This isn’t a failsafe, and we’re certainly not saying that it will fix all your mental health issues. But you may be surprised at how much of a difference it makes to get fit.
You can burn up to 900 calories in a single golf round! Don’t think that just because it’s relaxed, you won’t benefit from it. Mental health and physical health are closely related, so if you can burn calories, shed extra weight, and gain confidence, it’s a huge bonus.
It Places You In Nature
Exercise is a necessity. But there’s something to be said for exercising outdoors, surrounded by nature. This is known as “green exercise”, and research is suggesting that it has great mental health benefits.
The thing about golf as a sport is that you get the best of both worlds. You’re playing a sport, outdoors, getting vitamin D, and breathing fresh air. But it’s also not just in a stadium or on a random field – you’re always surrounded by beautiful nature, trees, green grass, and maybe even some wildlife!
This study suggests that as little as 10 minutes being outdoors in nature can have a positive psychological impact! Do this on a regular basis, and you’re setting yourself up for excellent habits to promote positive mental health.
It Stimulates Strategic Thinking
Golf isn’t a mindless game. While it’s true that mindless activity allows your brain time to rest, it can also be open season for negative thoughts!
The beauty of golf is that while it’s not a seriously in-depth thinking game, you do need to focus, concentrate on what you’re doing, and use your critical thinking skills to decide on the best course of action.
There are few studies out there that demonstrate the power of strategic thinking. But the truth is, when you employ critical thinking skills, you’re forging new neural pathways in your brain.
The more you do this, the more your brain begins to adopt those kinds of thoughts as normal. When you’re constantly thinking about how to overcome things (like a water hazard or sand trap), you aren’t focusing on the problem, but on the solution.
This is a hugely valuable skill that can translate over to everyday life. By focusing on solutions, it’s easier to prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed by the problems.
It’s a Way to Socialize
It’s also well-known that positive social interaction can improve mental health. We’re social creatures, and it can be easy to lose sight of that when your mental health has taken a turn for the worst.
One of the many benefits of golf is that it offers a great way to get social without needing to hang out in a bar or spend time in a crowd.
While you can play a round of golf by yourself, it’s a social game! You might play with a friend or with a small group, but because you’re out in the fresh air and constantly moving, it’s a great way to get social without feeling stifled.
Also, studies indicate that things like shaking hands or high-fiving after a super shot release a rush of oxytocin and dopamine, reducing stress, making you feel happy, and even numbing physical pain.
It’s never too late (or too early) to start thinking about your mental health. Regardless of where you are mentally right at the moment, engaging in a sport that’s both physically and mentally stimulating can only be a positive thing!
Golf truly is the ideal sport for those who want the full package. It burns calories, it gets your muscles working, it involves a good bit of walking, and it’s a lot of fun.
If you aren’t playing golf yet, what’s stopping you? If you’ve never played before, it might be a good idea to start with mini golf to get the hang of putting, and then hit the driving range a few times to work on your long shots.
Before you know it, you’ll be reaping both the physical and mental benefits of the sport!