Golf Benefits – Even Alzheimers, Dementia

Alzheimers Victims Finding Relief in Golf

I hear reports that some of the LPGA tournaments played in Asia are to be canceled due to the spread of the coronavirus. Although golf is more normally associated with many health benefits, I suppose that a field of 60 or more players gathering internationally each week having traveled the globe isn’t such a good idea, considering the circumstances.

The situation in China and neighboring countries did serve to remind me, however, of the health benefits golf has offered from generation to generation. Aside from some accumulative skeletal stress incurred over the years, golf is a game that seniors can continue to enjoy, and even has a partially restorative effect on Alzheimer patients and others suffering from dementia.

The soothing effect of being in the outdoors is a given. Yes, the game is good for relationships of every sort. It gets a person’s heart rate up, but not to the extreme found in long distance running. One article suggests that a golfer can burn around 1,000 calories per round. I assume that figure is based on walking, not riding. Other accounts claim that golf is good for one’s vision. I can remember a family member’s vision being sharpened by a series of exercises for finding a small object at a great distance. The evidence for sleep patterns improving, and the lowering of stress levels can be found everywhere where golf is played. Another source even suggests that bladder muscles are strengthened walking that long without a break, especially if one has visited the beer cart along the way. Frankly, I never saw that one coming. That’s a pretty good list. Look up almost any high energy sport, and we will find either immediate or eventual injuries and diseases associated with the activity. Dearly as I love football, it’s nightmarish reading for the long haul. But golf? Even the Alzheimer sufferer is finding benefits by taking up a clarifying game, or picking it up again from the distant past.
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A recent article found in the Wall Street Journal cites a California care facility that takes its patients out to visit a golf pro, Gerry Benton. He has constructed a series of skill tests with the golf club that is having a good effect on those experiencing a significant loss of memory. At the very least, the game of golf is taking people out of their dark world and into what Benton calls their “world of isolation.” Even for those in good health, golf has always been the antithesis of isolation,, and in some cases, works wonders for those trapped in the most isolating disease of all.

Doctor John Daly (interesting coincidence, but no, not him) of San Diego would explain that two types of memory are at work in the human brain, and collected information is stored in different areas. These are categorized as explicit and implicit memory, the latter of which is stored in the cerebellum, where one remembers how to swing a golf club. Re-experiencing that dynamic action is therapeutic gold to one who once led a vibrant life, but now sits in darkness, feeling it all ebb away.

Between the naturally pleasant maneuver of swinging a club, being in the presence of other people, and a walk in the forest, the ‘isolated world’ described gives way to an increased “peace and serenity.” It makes perfect sense.

No one knows yet where the coronavirus is going, what it will do, and in what time frame. Having to postpone some ‘getting together times’ is too bad, but this will all pass. Meanwhile, having that list of health benefits golf offers is encouraging, even knowing that having a beer provides some up side, although not in the score. Now, we know that golf actually has at least a partial answer to releasing a life from the prison of mental deterioration caused by Alzheimers.

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