Play golf to avoid an early grave! Players of the sport face half the risk of ...

Golf reduces the risk of a premature death by half, according to new research. 

A study of nearly 6,000 people found those who played at least once a month were much more likely to be alive a decade later.

Scientists said the sport - famously described as 'a good walk spoiled' by American author Mark Twain - is 'a hole in one' for older adults' health. 

Lead author Professor Adnan Qureshi said golf can provide benefits such as stress reduction, and is easy to maintain regularly because it is not exhausting. 

Due to its social nature and controlled pace, people often maintain motivation and the ability to continue playing in older age - even after suffering a heart attack or stroke. Stock image

Due to its social nature and controlled pace, people often maintain motivation and the ability to continue playing in older age - even after suffering a heart attack or stroke. Stock image

Professor Qureshi, a neurologist at the University of Missouri in Columbia, said: 'Our study is perhaps the first of its kind to evaluate the long-term health benefits of golf, particularly one of the most popular sports among older people in many countries.' 

The findings were based on data from the Cardiovascular Health Study, a population-based observational survey in the US of risk factors for heart disease and stroke in over 65s. 

Out of almost 5,900 participants with an average age of 72, 384 golfers. Two-thirds were women and the rest men.

The golfers reported playing once a month or more. They did not specify whether the golfers walked or rode in a golf cart. 

HOW DOES EXERCISE PROTECT THE HEART? 

Exercise burns calories which can maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is one of the biggest causes of heart problems.

It lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and helps regulate blood sugar levels, all of which have been linked to cardiovascular disease. 

A single bout of exercise may protect your heart immediately through a process known as ischemic preconditioning. A little bit of ischemia — defined as an inadequate blood supply to part of the body, especially the heart — may be a good thing.

It allows the heart to adapt and protect itself from longer episodes of ischemia, which normally occurs from a blockage in arteries.

Source: Harvard Medical School 

Beginning in 1989 and continuing through 1999, the participants had extensive annual medical examinations, as well as clinic visits every six months.

When comparing mortality rates between golfers and non-golfers over a ten-year period, it was significantly lower in the former group.  

Around one in seven (15 per cent) died, compared to a quarter (25 per cent) of those who never picked up a club.

At the end of the study, the participants were contacted by phone to determine any occurrences of heart attack and strokes. 

During follow up, eight percent of the golfers had suffered strokes and almost 10 per cent heart attacks. 

The researchers were unable to determine if playing golf had a direct impact on protecting against heart attack or stroke. 

But Professor Qureshi said: 'The US Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans does not yet include golf in the list of recommended physical activities.

'Therefore, we are hopeful our research findings could help to expand the options for adults to

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