Stop Handicapping Your Brain Capital: Play Golf

3 min read

A recent study showed playing golf affects plasma lipid profile and glucose metabolism more positively than walking. But what about the effects of golf on our most important organ, our brains?

In the fast-paced modern world, we face various challenges that demand optimal cognitive, emotional, and social resources. Brain capital, a novel approach pioneered by brain scientists, emphasizes the value of brain skills and health. Investing in building brain capital is essential not only to meet societal challenges but also to foster innovation and personal growth.

Below we outline the potential benefits of playing golf on brain health.

Exposure to Green and Blue Spaces: Studies have shown that spending time in nature, around forests, oceans, and lakes, such as on a golf course, reduces amygdala activity, contributing to better mental health.

Awe and Emotional Well-Being: Awe walks—a walk designed to elucidate awe, a positive emotion elicited when in the presence of vast things not immediately understood—promote emotional well-being by immersing ourselves in the wonder of nature. Golf provides an excellent opportunity to experience awe through its beautiful landscapes.

Social Interaction: Social interaction is vital for our well-being, and as mentioned by the U.S. surgeon general, it plays a key role in our overall health. Golf courses offer a welcoming environment for connecting with others and fostering meaningful relationships.

Exercise: Golf involves physical activity, which is essential for maintaining overall health and promoting brain function.

Self-Regulation: Golf requires discipline and self-control, fostering self-regulation skills that can be applied in various aspects of life.

Problem-Solving and Strategic Thinking: The strategic nature of golf challenges the brain’s problem-solving abilities, promoting cognitive agility.

Memory Enhancement: Regular mental stimulation during golf can contribute to improved memory retention and recall.

Focus: Concentration is vital in golf, which helps enhance our ability to sustain focus in other areas of life.

Finally, emerging science suggests exposure to a diverse aerobiome—the microbiome of the air—is necessary for health. Given the increased understanding of the gut-brain axis, golfing in nature just may help improve your brain health via good bugs.

We urge researchers on brain health to conduct direct research exploring the effects of golf on the brain, as well as other sports like mountain biking and skiing.

To fully harness the brain-boosting potential of golf, we must advocate for golf courses to be viewed as critical community hubs. Encouraging engagement from people from all walks of life is crucial. We can take inspiration from programs that support low socioeconomic status individuals in learning golf, fostering inclusivity, and expanding the positive impact of this remarkable sport. We applaud the work of the National Golf Foundation in supporting golf engagement for young men and women in need.

By immersing ourselves in these social and natural spaces, we can unlock our full potential. Let us embrace the power of golf as a tool to enhance brain capital and enrich our lives.

Mark D’Esposito, M.D., Ph.D., is a Distinguished Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology, The University of California at Berkeley. Thomas Murphy, M.D., is Professor of Population Health and Chief Medical Officer of UT Physicians, Houston, Texas.

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