A round of golf means being outside for four or five hours, walking at a fast pace for six to seven kilometres. But golf could have greater health benefits than walking and even more strenuous forms of exercise, according to research in Sweden which shows that playing the game adds an average of five years to your life.
The study's authors, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, calculate that this adds an extra five years on to the average player's lifespan.
Professor Anders Ahlbom, who led the study of 500,000 golfers, said that many aspects of the game were beneficial to health.
"A round of golf means being outside for four or five hours, walking at a fast pace for six to seven kilometres, something which is good for the health," he said.
"People play golf into old age, and there are also positive social and psychological aspects to the game that can be of help."
Prof Ahlbom said that other factors outside the golf course, such as the fact that people who enjoy sport also generally lead a healthier lifestyle, could play a part in the findings, published in Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports yesterday.
However, he said that it was "likely" that playing the game itself had a significant impact on health.
The effect was stronger for golfers from blue collar backgrounds than players with professional jobs, the study found.
The lowest death rates were found among players with the lowest handicaps.
They are 47 per cent less likely to die at any time than non-golfers of the same age.
"Maintaining a low handicap involves playing a lot, so this supports the idea that it is the game itself that is good for the health," Prof Ahlbom said.
Article by Kate Devlin, Telegraph Medical Correspondent
31 May 2008 Respond to this article