A new study suggests that the health benefits of playing golf might be just as good, if not better, than the benefits of high-intensity cardiovascular exercise such as cycling and running.
According to the Wall Street Journal's Kevin Helliker, the study is the newest piece of evidence that shows that long periods of high intensity workouts may not be productive.
The study in the Christmas edition of BMJ—the peer-reviewed publication formerly known as the British Medical Journal—is based on the mortality records of 9,889 athletes who competed in the Olympic Games between 1896 and 1936. "Engaging in cycling and rowing (high cardiovascular intensity) had no added survival benefit compared with playing golf or cricket (low cardiovascular intensity)."
The study adds to a small but growing body of research suggesting that years-long doses of extreme exercise — measured by amount or intensity — may be unproductive, if not counterproductive. In general, the research suggests that the well-established longevity benefits of exercise may cease to accrue or may even diminish beyond a point, for instance, 20 miles a week of running.
"During high intensive exercise the human body has to deal with all kinds of micro traumata. Over time, this will result in an accumulation of damage, which can be explained as a form of aging," said Frouke Engelaer, an author of the study, conducted by a vitality-and-aging department at Leiden University Medical Centre in Leiden, Netherlands.
The article says the research is "too preliminary and controversial to trigger warnings against marathons and triathlons," but it should help make the case, once and for all, that golf is indeed a sport.