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Published on: 13-Nov-2023

Maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle is crucial as you age. While some envision retirement as a time to slow down, engaging in regular physical activity remains essential for overall well-being. Enter golf — a sport that transcends generations and is a perfect activity for seniors. And now, new evidence proves that the sport can even help boost your cognitive function as you age!

Results from a recent study demonstrated that playing a single 18-hole round of golf can significantly improve immediate cognitive function in older adults. In the study, 25 healthy golfers, aged 65 and older, participated in three different forms of exercise: 18 holes of golf, a 6 km Nordic walking session, and a 6 km regular walking session. Participants also wore fitness monitoring devices to record exercise-specific data like distance, duration, pace, energy expenditure, and steps. An ECG sensor with a chest strap was used to monitor heart rate.

The study showed that a single session of any of the three exercises improved lower cognitive functions measured with the TMT-A test, which is a widely used tool for evaluating cognitive function in older adults. The findings reinforce the value of value of age-appropriate aerobic exercise, such as golf.

Golf is a life-long sport that improves concentration, problem-solving skills, and memory. The sport demands unwavering concentration and focus, making it a superb mental exercise. Players must meticulously analyze the terrain, gauge distances, and factor in elements such as wind and slope before every swing. Maintaining such focus and attention to detail and helps improve the ability to concentrate, a skill that is transferable to activities off the course.

The sport also offers practice problem-solving. Players must strategize, adapt to changing conditions, and make critical decisions on the course. Each shot presents a unique challenge, whether it’s avoiding bunkers, overcoming obstacles, or reading the contours of the green. This problem-solving aspect of golf nurtures your analytic abilities and helps you assess situations, make decisions, and think creatively.

And, if you’re looking for stress relief…golf has you covered. Playing in a tranquil, natural setting is an ideal environment for escape from the daily grind, reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Lower stress levels have a direct impact on cognitive function, as high-stress levels can impair memory and decision-making. By playing golf, you’re effectively giving your brain a vacation.

Finally, the social aspects of the sport also support mental well-being. Golf is typically played in a social setting, fostering interaction and social engagement. Conversations, camaraderie, and the exchange of ideas and experiences while golfing will keep your mind sharp!

So, you don’t need an excuse to make your next tee time. Golf is not just a game; it’s a cognitive enhancer that offers countless mental and physical benefits!

Authored by Zach Meeker, Research Assistant for Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush University Medical Center


“Cognitive and biomarker responses in healthy older adults to a 18-hole golf round and different walking types: a randomised cross-over study” by Julia Kettinen, Heikki Tikkanen, Mikko Hiltunen, Andrew Murray, Nils Horn, William R Taylor and Mika Venojärvi, 1 October 2023, BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine. DOI: 10.1136/bmjsem-2023-001629