Researchers have discovered that golfing may offer therapeutic benefits to individuals with osteoarthritis, as it reduces psychological distress and enhances overall health in comparison to the general population. The findings were published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.
Brad Stenner, the lead investigator and an occupational therapist at the University of South Australia’s Alliance for Research in Exercise, Nutrition and Activity, explained that golf is an enjoyable, affordable, lifelong sport that provides clear physical and mental health advantages, particularly for older adults.
For those with osteoarthritis, playing golf aids in maintaining joint flexibility, strength, and stamina while promoting mental health and well-being. Golfers also experience lower rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
Stenner observed that golfers with and without osteoarthritis had a better quality of life and significantly reduced levels of psychological distress, which are indicative of anxiety and depression. Golf’s positive impact on well-being may be attributed to factors like exercise, camaraderie, and a sense of belonging.
Though many arthritis sufferers quit sports entirely, the effects of arthritis on golfing remain unclear. Stenner’s study focused on the benefits for arthritis patients, rather than potential obstacles. Based on the findings, it seems that those with osteoarthritis can continue to play golf due to its low joint impact while still enjoying its advantages.
In the study, 459 golfers with osteoarthritis were surveyed. Over 90% of the golfers rated their health as good, very good, or excellent, compared to 64% of non-golfers from the general population. Additionally, among those with osteoarthritis, only 8% of golfers reported high to very high levels of psychological distress, as opposed to 22% of non-golfers.
Dr Ariel Goldman, an orthopaedic surgeon at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y., noted that despite seeming counterintuitive, physical activity has been shown to alleviate pain and enhance well-being for osteoarthritis patients. Regular exercise can help improve pain and quality of life, and decrease risk factors such as obesity.
Golf is a relatively low-impact sport that can contribute to maintaining mental health and overall well-being, particularly if participants walk the course instead of using a golf cart. Other low-impact activities with similar benefits include yoga, Pilates, tai chi, bowling, pickleball, and walking.
Goldman concluded that this study, like many others, demonstrates that low-impact physical activity supports the physical and emotional well-being of individuals suffering from osteoarthritis.
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