Weight-bearing exercise, like carrying heavy golf bags, increases bone density. So a game of golf may help you lower your risk of osteoporosis and hip fractures.
A study done a few years ago measured the bone density of 74 female Japanese caddies, ranging in age from 20 to 59. The study found that the caddies had higher bone density than an age-matched control group of office workers and housewives.
The caddies walked 5 miles a day three days a week while toting golf bags. Researchers believe the walking and weight of the bags loaded their bones, which helped the caddies maintain bone density and slow bone loss after menopause.
Even if you don't carry your clubs, in order to get the most benefit (and avoid injury) from a game of golf, warm up before you play.
"Recreational golfers usually don't consider golf a sport, and they don't condition and stretch for it," says Betsy Voyles, P.T., who teaches a golf wellness program in Chicago. Most injuries occur on holes 1 through 4 because golfers don't warm up properly, and on holes 15 through 18 because of fatigue.
Voyles advises arriving at least 20 minutes before tee time to stretch. "Most of us begin with a couple of bad rotations and then we are off. Full-body rotation should be the last thing we do." At the very least, she suggests doing these three stretches before the first tee:
Side stretch. Stand with your arms above your head, holding a golf club in your hands. Slowly bend to the right and take two deep breaths. Then bend to the left and hold for two deep breaths.
Calf stretch. Place both hands against a tree at chest level and stand arm's length away. Keeping your right foot on the ground and the leg slightly bent, move your left foot behind. Press the left heel to the ground until you feel a stretch in your left calf. Alternate legs and repeat.
Trunk and upper body stretch. Hold a club behind your neck, keeping your head and neck straight. Keep your knees slightly bent. Rotate slowly to the right. Hold your position 10 to 20 seconds. Then rotate slowly to the left. Hold your position 10 to 20 seconds. Repeat two to three times.