Playing golf may be as good as, or better than, Nordic walking for older people, a small study suggests.
Nordic walking involves the use of a specific technique that uses the power of your upper body and poles to provide a more vigorous workout than just walking.
But a new study, published online in the journal BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, found that rounds of golf are more likely to provide health benefits.
Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland analyzed data from 16 men and nine women who were golfers, healthy and older than 65 years.
The team analyzed three aerobic exercises – an 18-hole round of golf, 6 km (3.7 miles) of Nordic walking and a normal walk of 6 km (3.7 miles) – and measured the effects on blood pressure, glucose in blood and blood lipids (such as cholesterol).
To do this, they took blood samples, fingerstick blood glucose tests, and measured blood pressure, while the people in the study also wore fitness-tracking devices to record things like distance, duration, and pace. .
Participants also wore an ECG sensor with a chest strap to measure their heart rate.
Results showed that all three types of aerobic exercise improved cardiovascular health in older adults, including by lowering blood pressure.
However, the study suggested that it was golf that seemed to have the greatest effect on blood fats and glucose metabolism, which keeps blood sugar levels stable.
The researchers said: “Despite the lower exercise intensity of golf, the longer duration and higher energy expenditure appeared to have a more positive effect on lipid profile and glucose metabolism compared to Nordic walking and March.
“These age-appropriate aerobic exercises can be recommended to healthy older adults as a health-enhancing form of physical activity to prevent cardiovascular disease and can also be used as a treatment strategy to improve cardiometabolic health among those who already have a cardiovascular disease”.
Sindy Jodar, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Any amount of physical activity, no matter how long or short, is good for heart and circulation health.
“Current guidelines recommend aiming for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, and this can be broken up into short sessions to suit your lifestyle.
“Exercising in old age, even if you have never done much before, can still bring health benefits.
“Check with your doctor first about what exercise is right for you if you have a heart or circulatory condition.”