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Golf aids memory, at least for some

WALKING not only boosts physical health but new Australian research shows it can also help your brain stay younger longer.

That’s good news for (the many cartless) older golfers and means that even if your score starts to skyrocket as your aging body deteriorates, at least you’ll still have the mental capacity to add it all up at the end of the round.

The University of Western Australia study was conducted over 18 months with 170 participants aged over 50 who felt they had memory problems.

The participants were divided into two groups and for six months one group aimed to walk for 50 minutes three times a week or participate in other moderate exercise.

The other group continued with their usual activities.

Results revealed the exercise group performed better on cognitive tasks and had superior delayed recall than the other group.

The landmark study was published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Lead researcher, Nicola Lautenschlager of the University of Melbourne, said the improved memory occurred not only during the trial but for 12 months after the end of the physical activity program.

“We have known for a long time that exercise is a great way to improve cardiovascular health, but it may be that in the future exercise can also be recommended to protect against the ageing brain,” she said.

“The improvement on the memory testing was significant and it was higher than in previous drug trials with Alzheimer’s (disease) medications in patients with mild cognitive impairment.

Professor Lautenschlager said she believed this was the first ever trial to demonstrate that exercise can boost memory in older adults at risk of developing conditions such as Alzheimer’s.

She said brisk walking was the safest form of exercise for older people and the results suggested 20 minutes of daily exercise could possibly delay the onset of conditions such as dementia.

“We are not talking onerous, dramatic physical activity but (walking 20 minutes is) something which I think most people would feel, ‘yeah that is something I could incorporate into my daily routine’.”

Playing golf for four plus hours, including all the walking and associated physical activity, would have to more than fit the bill. We’d have to concede that even those using carts are still getting enough exercise to keep some blood flowing to the brain.

The Australian study comes on top of a recent Swedish study that found playing regular golf can actually prolong your life.

The study showed the death rate for golfers is 40 per cent lower than for other people of the same sex, age and socioeconomic status. See Golfers live Longer

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About Brian O'Hare

Brian is the editor and founder of ASG. He is a former Sydney journalist and is now an avid "senior" golfer. Brian is a member of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

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