By Karen Palacios-Jansen
Believe it or not, the time you spend sitting in a golf cart while you play golf could be making you fat. You may think that you are getting enough exercise while playing golf, however, if you ride in a cart, you are eliminating the benefits of golf as exercise. Add a hot dog, chips, a soda or a couple of beers at the turn, and you may actually be taking in more calories than you are burning.
The best way to get the health benefits that playing golf could provide is to walk while you play. Walking is one of the best activities people of all ages can do to improve cardiovascular conditioning. A 150-pound person walking at a pace of 4 miles per hour could burn up to 400 calories per hour. Walking 18 or even 9 holes a couple of times a week could help you maintain or even lose weight as well as boost your endurance, lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. But even if you are required to use a golf cart while you play at your course, or you choose not to walk, you can still get exercise during your round by changing a few habits.
You could play your way into shape. Playing golf can be a form of exercise, even if you are riding in a golf cart. Try these calorie burning, muscle toning tips the next time you tee it up.
Arrive at the golf course with enough time to do a 10-minute warm-up session before you play. Stretching before you play golf loosens your muscles and prepares them for what lies ahead, and can prevent injury.
Grab a pitching wedge, 6-iron and your driver and walk to the practice range before your round instead of hopping into the cart and riding the few hundred yards. The walk will serve to warm your muscles to prepare them to stretch, and get your heart pumping to improve endurance.
Sit up straight ' dont slouch while you sit in the cart. While you sit in the cart, engage your abdominal muscles, align your head and neck with your spine, and roll your shoulders back. Actively engaging your abdominal muscles will help strengthen them and protect your back. One minute of sitting actively burns 2 calories.
One minute of sitting doing nothing burns only 1 calorie per minute, so with a little extra effort, you could be strengthening your abdominal muscles, improving your posture and burning a few extra calories while you play.
Stand up and be ready to hit. Dont just sit there on the cart waiting for your turn. Not only will this speed up play, but standing burns more calories than sitting. Sitting also restricts blood flow to your muscles, so as you sit your muscles are constricted and will not respond as well when you swing.
As you stand, place a club behind your back to remind you to stand up straight.
This is also an excellent way to stretch your back, chest and shoulders.
Stretch in between shots. While you are waiting for the group in front of you to clear the fairway or green, you can do simple stretching exercises that will keep your swing loose and supple and will increase your flexibility. There are inevitably always moments during a round where you are waiting to hit. Take advantage of this down time and work on your flexibility.
There are hundreds of spontaneous stretches that you can do while you are waiting for your turn to hit your shot. Stretching not only burns more calories than just sitting doing nothing, but stretching will keep you loose throughout the round and help you increase your flexibility for a more reliable swing. Here are examples of simple stretches you can do involving a golf cart.
Have your partner drive the cart so that you can walk in between shots. Grab a few clubs and hoof it over to your ball instead of sitting in the cart. Walking will energize you and get you some well-needed exercise.
If you have time and you are not holding up the group behind you, help your playing partners out by raking the sand traps after they hit, replace divots, repair ballmarks, or tend and replace the pins. Not only is this courteous, but all that bending, twisting and squatting will help your waistline by keeping you moving. Remember that exercise is all about movement, and every little bit adds up in the end.
Stay hydrated. Often when we think we are hungry it is actually because we are thirsty and dehydrated. So by drinking plenty of water you should not feel as hungry, and therefore, will not go for a large Coke and hot dog at the snack bar. Another benefit to drinking water is that it will keep your body hydrated throughout your game. If you dont drink enough water, you will not be able to focus for your entire round.
Skip the junk food at the turn. Pack yourself a healthy snack from home so that the greasy food and candy bars at the snack bar wont tempt you. Bring foods that are loaded with complex carbohydrates and proteins to help keep your energy levels up such as nuts, dried fruit, crackers and cheese, and peanut butter sandwiches.
Just these few small things you can do throughout your round can add up to increased endurance, strength and flexible muscles and joints, keeping you in shape to play the game you love.
EDITORS 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. Our priority is to maximize your potential, lower your scores, reduce your risk of injury, and extend your golfing years. Each issue has departments dedicated to men, women, seniors, and juniors along with tips, advice and simple exercise routines from GFMs team of experts. If you want to improve your golf game, and hit the ball farther, click here for special offers on a subscription so you can have all this and more in-depth advice delivered right to you! Get cutting edge fitness & mental tips sent to your inbox each month with our FREE golf performance eNewsletter, Shape Your Game. To contact our Senior Editor, Publisher or Online Editor with questions or comments, please visit our web site golffitnessmagazine.com for more information.