Golf And Parkinson’s: A Game For Life

“One of the most fascinating things about golf is how it reflects the cycle of life. No matter what you shoot – the next day you have to go back to the first tee and begin all over again and make yourself into something.” Peter Jacobsen

Précis: The goals are to describe the overall benefits of exercise to our health, the neuroprotective effects of exercise in treating Parkinson’s, and to highlight the game of golf for exercise (in the absence/presence of Parkinson’s).

Introduction:  If you’ve been following this blog, you already know how much I value exercise.  If this is your first visit, it’s really simple; any kind of exercise is a wonderful way to feel better, maintain your health, and to have a lot of fun. And if you’re lucky, exercising outside offers even more benefits.  With the backdrop of having Parkinson’s, exercise (physical activity) is essential for living-forward and for maintaining a grip on the miniscule progression of this disorder.

“Golf is a science, the study of a lifetime, in which you can exhaust yourself but never your subject.”  David Forgan 

Benefits of Exercise: One of the healthiest things you can do is exercise (physical activity), and every day if possible! The Mayo Clinic gives 7 benefits of regular physical activity (http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389 ): #1, exercise controls weight; #2, exercise combats health conditions and diseases; #3, exercise improves mood; #4, exercise boosts energy; #5, exercise promotes better sleep; #6, exercise puts the spark back into your sex life; and #7, exercise can be fun.

“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening – and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.” Arnold Palmer

Neuroprotective Benefits of Exercise: There is ample evidence to suggest that exercise (physical activity) should be given a role in treating Parkinson’s.  Many different types of exercise have been shown to help those of us with Parkinson’s. The key for you is to find the type(s) of exercise(s) you enjoy and are willing to do on a frequent basis.  Anyone with Parkinson’s should be encouraged to participate in routine exercise that allows one to establish and/or maintain physical fitness (please consult your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise program).

See these websites for information on exercise and Parkinson’s:
http://www.parkinson.org/understanding-parkinsons/treatment/Exercise/Neuroprotective-Benefits-of-Exercise
http://www.parkinson.org/understanding-parkinsons/treatment/Exercise
http://www.pdf.org/en/exercise
https://www.michaeljfox.org/exercise
Examples of research showing the benefits of exercise in Parkinson’s:
Enhancing neuroplasticity in the basal ganglia: The role of exercise in Parkinson’s disease” (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/mds.22782/full )
“Tai Chi and Postural Stability in Patients with Parkinson’s Disease” (http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1107911 )
“The effectiveness of exercise interventions for people with Parkinson’s disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis” (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5669549_The_effectiveness_of_exercise_interventions_for_people_with_Parkinson%27s_disease_A_systematic_review_and_meta-analysis )

“Golf is the closest game to the game we call life.  You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots – but you have to play the ball where it lies.”   Bobby Jones

A brief history of golf: An interesting historical timeline for the game of golf: http://www.igfgolf.org/about-golf/history/

A personal perspective of golf: At the age of 11-12 years old, I discovered my 2 favorite sports of tennis and golf.   Part of this was from my dad’s fondness of golf; it gave me some wonderful father/son time on the golf course.  Off-and-on for the past 50 years, I’ve played/loved the game of golf.  If you’ve read the quotes here, you realize that golf is both an honorable game and incredibly hard to master (I’m still learning how to play).  Golf is sometimes incredibly frustrating; yet it still very relaxing and always fun. You use every muscle/joint/ligament/tendon in your body to hit the golf ball. You can substantially boost the level of exercise if you are physically able to push a golf cart or carry your golf bag and walk. You frequently play golf with others; however, you mostly are competing against your most recent good/bad-scoring round of golf.  Finally, there is usually a fun and supportive social aspect to golf.

Below are pictures of several of my ‘golf buddies’ (friends, colleagues, and relatives).

Image“In golf, the player, coach and official are rolled into one, and they overlap completely. Golf really is the best microcosm of life – or at least the way life should be.”  Lou Holtz

Golf and Parkinson’s: Many people think of golf as a passive sport that doesn’t offer much in terms of physical fitness.  Golf actually provides cardiovascular exercise, strength training, flexibility, balance and coordination.  As a form of exercise, here are some benefits of playing golf for managing Parkinson’s: (a)  tremendous benefit for balance; (b) positive effect for range of motion; (c) increase in lateral flexibility; (d) walking 18 holes of golf is ~5-7 miles; (e) provides strength training; (f) great way to exercise your brain (concentration); and (g) golf is relaxing and fun.

The video below (entitled “Putting with Parkinson’s”) says it all because these golfers believe in the positive effect of golf on their Parkinson’s and they really enjoy playing golf.

“Golf is a puzzle without an answer. I’ve played the game for 40 years and I still haven’t the slightest idea how to play.” Gary Player

Golf and Parkinson’s- A game for life: Parkinson’s is insidious and primarily presents as a movement disorder; it advances with indifferent ‘baby-steps’ that slowly evolves over many years. Until a cure for Parkinson’s is reported, exercise is an essential life-advancing-salve to help shield you from your disorder.  There are so many positive benefits to exercise; for someone with Parkinson’s, exercise is even more life-preserving and health-affirming. Find an exercise that works for you, and embrace its health benefits. Use exercise to provide a neuroprotective net over your Parkinson’s. Stay active. Remain dedicated. Be strong. Strive for health and happiness. Keep going. Don’t ever lose hope.

My doctor, who happens to be my old college roommate, tells me the Parkinson’s shouldn’t affect my golf game at all, which really surprised me. His explanation was very interesting. He said I’ve never been able to putt and since it was impossible for my putting to get any worse, there was actually a chance it might improve.” Vince Flynn

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