Its never too late to get your body in golf shape

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This is probably what it seems like the golf experts are saying. Sounds like an awful lot of work that you have to do just to enjoy playing a round. In fact, work is exactly what it sounds like. Whether you are still in the corporate world or are enjoying the golden years of retirement no one wants to associate golf with work unless you are planning on competing for the next PGA championship.

So if you are not trying to be Tiger or Ernie then what is the point of spending time in a gym or working out at home? “Working out” or golf-related fitness can’t really be all that important, right? If you want to go out with the guys or your spouse and have fun playing a good round of golf then why bother with all of these exercises promoted by every golf and fitness expert? You are not doing your body or your golf game any harm, right? Wrong.

Studies have shown that the aging population actually has a higher potential for strength gains than those in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. This is primarily due to a lower baseline activity level of the older group.

Compared with younger groups performing similar exercises over a one month period the aging population can achieve more than double the strength gains. You are never too old to start; the results can have a dramatic effect on your daily life and on your golf game.

If golf is your only form of exercise then you are doing your golf game and your body a disservice. Don’t get me wrong…there are many beneficial aspects of the game of golf-including the physical aspect of just playing. However, a golf swing is a repetitive movement that puts unusual strain on certain parts of the body.Without “undoing” that stress-in other words specific strengthening and stretching to protect your neck, back, arms, and legs, you are placing yourself at risk of injuries.

Yoga Class
Trunk Rotations. Four different Yoga Poses. Three back stretches. Hold for 10 seconds each. Then six Core Stabilizations Exercises. Oh, and before you are finished, make certain you warm up your wrists, shoulders, neck, knees, and ankles. NOW – and only now – are you ready to start your round of golf.
Combine this risk with the normal effects of aging-decreased strength, decreased flexibility, decreased rate of healing of body tissues-and suddenly you are facing a rotator cuff or low back injury that keeps you on the recliner rather than on the golf cart.

Many of my patients come to see me with one problem or complaint, for example low back pain. However, once we get started with treatment, I discover that not only does that patient struggle with the low back, but he or she also cannot reach behind to tuck in a shirt or cannot squat down to pick something off of the floor.

When I question the patient about that limitation the usual answer is something such as, “Oh, I’ve had it forever” or “I just thought it was part of getting old” or “I didn’t think it was important enough to tell my doctor about.” Wrong again. These problems are not something that just occur with getting older and are important enough to tell your physician about. Below are some common benchmarks that we use to judge physical ability and fitness:

• Are you able to reach overhead to put dishes away in the cabinet?

• Are you able to reach behind to tuck in your shirt, get your wallet out of your pocket, or hook your bra?

• Are you able to reach forward to put on your shoes and socks?

• Are you able to squat down to pick up something from the floor (i.e. a golf ball from the bottom of the cup)?

• Are you able to turn your torso or do you have to shorten your golf swing?

If you answered “no” to any one of those questions than you may have an underlying problem that could be treated by a physical therapist. Left untreated, these problems will worsen and lead to more limitations. To prevent that, your physician may want to refer you to therapy, where you can have a thorough evaluation.

By finding the underlying cause and treating that problem you may be able to resume the ability to perform these daily and golf-related activities without pain or limitations.

Here are a few facts:

• Virtually everyone will experience low back pain at some point in his or her life. Low back pain is one of the top 10 reasons for people to see their primary care physician.

There are many causes for low back pain and each one is treated differently from a rehabilitation and exercise standpoint-in other words the exercises that helped your golf buddy get back to playing may actually be harmful for you!

• Arthritis affects 50% of Americans over the age of 65. It is most common in the hips, spine, and knees. Along with medications that your physician may prescribe, healthy diet, and maintaining a low body weight, moderate exercise including appropriate strengthening and flexibility exercises are the best way to both prevent and manage arthritis.

• In order to achieve a normal golf swing, you need good range of motion in you shoulders, spine, and hips. Limitations in any of these will place more strain on other joints and muscles eventually causing injury. Additionally you will try to compensate during your golf swing which may cause you to hit the ball fat, thin or just completely off course.

Here is what you can do about it:

• Exercise: All of the exercises that you see out there can be intimidating and overwhelming. The good news is that it doesn’t take much-usually just a few specific exercises-to get you back on track. The bad news is that aggressively performing the wrong exercises for your problem may actually cause more harm than good. You need to make certain you are doing what is correct for you.

• If you need to increase your activity level with specific exercises, whether to prevent future problems, address current limitations, minimize the problems that you already have, or just fine-tune your golf game-then your best bet is to start with a gentle exercise program (always check with your physician before starting any new exercise program). Pick exercises that stretch and strengthen the area where you have the most limitations. Try to slowly build up more range of motion, flexibility and strength through increasing the amount of stretch and the number of times you perform each exercise.

• Manual Therapy: Sometimes a problem requires more than just exercise to the muscles. Often times our joints become very tight and we need specific stretching to the joint and surrounding areas. Performing exercises along with specific hands-on techniques a therapist can provide often leads to the best and quickest recovery.

• Hydration and nutrition are important regardless of age. Without the proper foundation of a well-balance diet and fluid intake your body cannot function at its best, regardless of your fitness level. Try eating a small, healthy snack (for example yogurt or a small apple with peanut butter) about an hour or two before working out to ensure you have energy to get you through your work out. Also make sure you drink plenty of water while on the course or driving range.

• Prevention is always the best way to make certain that you are able to stay healthy and active as you age. Whether you are at the gym working out several days per week or a couch potato golfing a few times a month get up and get moving!

Doing just a little more each day will add strength, flexibility, and endurance to your game.  Playing with more strength and less aches & pains, means lower scores and more enjoyment of the game for many more years to come.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Golf Fitness Magazine is the only national consumer publication dedicated to golf-specific fitness, mental focus, and improving ability, performance and health among all golfers. Get cutting edge fitness & mental tips sent to your inbox each month with our free golf performance eNewsletter, Shape Your Game.