Playing golf may be just as good – or better – than Nordic walking for older people, a small study suggests.
Nordic walking involves using a specific technique which uses the power of the upper body and walking 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 may be more likely to provide health benefits.
Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland analysed data for 16 men and nine women who were golfers, healthy and aged 65 and over.
The team looked at three aerobic exercises – an 18-hole round of golf, 6km (3.7 miles) of Nordic walking, and a 6km (3.7 miles) regular walk – and measured the effects on blood pressure, blood glucose and blood lipids (such as cholesterol).
To do this, they took blood samples, blood glucose finger-prick tests and measured blood pressure, while people in the study also wore fitness measuring devices to record things such as distance, duration and pace.
Those people taking part also wore an ECG sensor with a chest strap to measure their heart rate.
The results showed that all three types of aerobic exercise improved cardiovascular health in older adults, including by lowering blood pressure.
However, the study suggested it was golf that seemed to have the biggest effect on blood fats and the metabolism of glucose, 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 with Nordic walking and walking.
“These age-appropriate aerobic exercises can be recommended to healthy older adults as a form of health-enhancing physical activity to prevent cardiovascular diseases 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 circulatory health.
“The current guidelines recommend aiming for 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every week, and this can be split into short sessions that suit your lifestyle.
“Taking up exercise in later life – even if you’ve 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.”