A global consensus among leaders in public health, public policy and sport backs golf in the race to tackle physical inactivity and the prevention of a range of non-communicable disease (NCD) including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer of the breast and colon.

Evidence linking golf and health, commissioned by the World Golf Foundation and supported by The R&A, was presented this week in London at the 7th Congress of the International Society for Physical Activity and Health (ISPAH). The biennial scientific meeting is widely regarded as the world’s flagship physical activity and public health event attended by more than 1,000 delegates from 60 countries.

Recognition that playing golf has significant physical health and wellness benefits and can provide moderate intensity physical activity to persons of all ages, comes just months after the World Health Organization (WHO) published its Global Action Plan for Physical Activity. The Global Action Plan targets one in four adults, and four out of five adolescents (11-17 years) who are insufficiently active, and charts how countries can reduce physical inactivity in adults and adolescents by 15% by 2030.

The scientific consensus for golf is evidenced in research led by the University of Edinburgh and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Findings reveal that playing golf is associated with a range of physical and mental health benefits, and further collaborative efforts to improve access for the sport are needed.

New studies are underway to discover if playing golf improves strength and balance, contributing to a key public health goal of fall prevention in healthy aging and into conditions such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Marking the close of the ISPAH Congress, public health practitioners, policymakers and golf industry leaders were hosted at a satellite event in the Palace of Westminster by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf.

Steve Brine, Minister for Public Health and Primary Care, said, “Physical activity of any type comes with a range of physical, social and mental benefits. For some, golf can be a great way to stay active and there’s growing evidence about ways the sport can help those living with long term conditions such as Parkinson’s and dementia. And for those who haven’t discovered their favorite sport yet it’s never too late to get inspired, connect with people and improve your well-being.”

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “Golf is working hard to encourage more people into the sport, who will realize its many health benefits. With 60 million golfers spanning six continents, golf has found common purpose in working with public health practitioners and policymakers to optimize the health benefits of playing the sport.

“We recognize the importance of the World Health Organization Global Action Plan for Physical Activity and we will work with our affiliates and partners around the world to help improve health and well-being through golf”.

Professor Fiona Bull, WHO Program Manager, Non-Communicable Disease Prevention, said, “Non-communicable disease is responsible for nearly three quarters of all premature deaths globally, including 15 million deaths per year in people aged 30 to 70 years.

“The new World Health Organization global action plan and the implementation toolkit ‘ACTIVE’ aims to help all countries improve the environments and the opportunities for all people to be more active. Golf is a popular sport for men and women and it is great to see golf’s global leadership recognizing health priorities and identifying ways golf can be more accessible to more people.

“I took up golf in my 30’s but thought it was a very technical, expensive and elitist sport. Thankfully a 6 week ‘come and try course’ showed me how easy it was to enjoy golf as a beginner and how active playing 9 holes can be. I am looking forward to seeing how golf can attract many more girls and women to enjoy the sport and be more active and healthy”.

Annika Sorenstam, Major Champion and a global ambassador for golf and health, said, “As the recent international consensus statement highlighted, golf is great for the health of people of all ages – it benefits those playing the sport and even tournament spectators.

“Given the health benefits, we must work together to make golf more accessible if we are to achieve our sport’s full potential.”

The 2018 International Consensus Statement on Golf and Health to guide action by people, policymakers and the golf industry was published last month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

A further Golf and Health Scientific Meeting will be held on Thursday 18 October 2018 at Mytime Active, High Elms Golf Course, Bromley, UK – a club promoting healthy lifestyles. Researchers from Asia, Australia, Europe and the USA will discuss their respective projects and the future direction of research on golf and health.

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