3 Mental Health Benefits of Golf
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased awareness about mental health challenges, the importance of addressing them, and the various ways they can be mitigated. Uncertainty, loss, and isolation have contributed to higher instances of depression and anxiety. Exercise and socializing are two ways to help maintain good mental health and reduce the risk of depression and anxiety.
The mental health benefits of golf offers a great way to easily combine exercise and socializing to support your mental health. Here are three primary reasons hitting the course is good for your brain.
1) Decreases the Effects of Depression and Anxiety
You may have heard of a ‘runner’s high’–that exhilarating feeling many runners experience during a great race—or even during an everyday jog. Exercise, including playing golf, releases endorphins, the brain’s “feel-good” neurotransmitters.
For women, this can be particularly important. Many experts estimate that women are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression. The number could be even higher for those who suffer from depression, but do not have a formal diagnosis.
Australian researcher Kristiann Heesch looked at the effect of exercise on women’s depression. The results of her study, reported by Scientific American, showed that women who averaged 150 minutes of moderate exercise (golf, tennis, aerobics classes, swimming, or line-dancing) or 200 minutes of walking every week, “had more energy, socialized more, felt better emotionally, and were not as limited by their depression when researchers followed up after three years.”
Endorphins also help ease anxiety, which is the most common mental health concern in the United States. According to data from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), over 40 million adults in the U.S. (19.1%) have an anxiety disorder.
The exposure to sunshine when playing golf also has benefits. Research has linked vitamin D deficiency with instances of depression and other mental health struggles. Even a cloudy day on the golf course provides the sun exposure required to optimize your vitamin D levels.
Aviv Clinics clients in our innovative Aviv Golf Performance Program benefit, not only from the physical and mental enhancements received from hyperbaric oxygen therapy, nutrition coaching, and cognitive training, but also from the golf-specific components of the program. They receive private golf instruction and access to the world-class courses in sunny central Florida.
2) Lessens Stress
Most people encounter periods of stress in their lives. However, when stress becomes chronic, it can affect other components of health.
The National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) reports that repeated stress can disrupt functioning of the immune, digestive, cardiovascular, sleep, and reproductive systems. Even more cause for concern, the continued strain that stress places on your body may contribute to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and mental illness.
Chronic stress also negatively impacts the brain through memory problems, loss of brain cells, and weakened mental health.
The restorative impact of the endorphins from a round of golf, along with the meditative nature of the focus it requires may help reduce stress. Additionally, exercising outdoors, or “green exercise,” is actually better than indoor exercise when it comes to stress reduction.
Shedding your tensions during the course of playing nine or 18 holes can leave you feeling calmer, clearer, more focused, and ready to manage both daily and extraordinary challenges in your life.
3) Fosters Socialization
Humans are naturally social beings. While not every person is a social butterfly, socialization and interaction has been shown to improve one’s overall health and well-being. This is one of the reasons so many individuals have suffered through the COVID pandemic—being forced to isolate themselves from friends and family for weeks or even months at a time.
Research has revealed that person-to-person interaction triggers the nervous system to release a combination of neurotransmitters that regulate the body’s response to stress and anxiety. Dopamine is another feel-good chemical produced by the brain, which has a compounding effect on one’s mental health.
“It’s part of our reward center, and when our brain produces dopamine in response to what we do, we feel good and want to do more of whatever it is that’s making us feel so mentally healthy. That, in turn, leads to even more dopamine production,” explains Tanya J. Peterson, NCC, DAIS, a mental health educator.
Playing golf with your friends, spouse, or colleagues can help reap these socialization benefits. Aviv Clinics clients already enjoy the camaraderie naturally fostered by their hyperbaric oxygen therapy sessions in our state-of-the-art HBOT Suite. Golf games provide more opportunities for socializing and improving their overall experience.
The bottom line
The past two years of the COVID pandemic have reinforced a focus on mental health and the importance of engaging in social and physical activities to help manage our moods, stress, and overall health. Incorporating golf into your weekly routine can help maintain your mental health.