This week we look at another great study into the benefits of golf in the ageing population. Muscle strength and functional ability decline with age. Physical activity can slow the decline but whether recreational golf is associated with slower decline is unknown. This cross-sectional, observational study aimed to examine the feasibility of testing muscle strength and functional ability in older female golfers and non-golfers in community settings. Thirty-one females over aged 80, living independently and 10 non-golfers aged over 80 years were studied. Maximal isometric contractions of handgrip and quadriceps were tested on the dominant side. Functional ability was assessed using the Timed Up and Go (TUG) and health-related quality of life using the Short Form-36 questionnaire.
Muscle Strength and Functional Ability in Recreational Female Golfers and Less Active Non-Golfers over the Age of 80 Years. Stockdale A, Webb N, Wootton J, Drennan J, Brown S, and Stokes M. Geriatrics 2: 12, 2017.
Sarcopenia is a syndrome involving low muscle mass and reduced muscle function, typically observed in an aging person. Sarcopenia involves a generalized loss of muscle rather than a localized loss of muscle or muscle group specific loss of muscle and may follow primarily from disuse atrophy. Recent estimates have suggested that the loss of muscle mass occurs at a rate of 3 – 8% per decade after the age of 30 and that a higher rate of muscle loss occurs in old age. Thus, sarcopenia is a key problem in geriatrics and leads to an increased risk of several adverse health outcomes, including physical disability, poor health-related quality of life and increased mortality.
To prevent sarcopenia, the ACSM recommends that for resistance-training, older adults should perform bi-weekly muscle strengthening activities of 8 – 10 exercises for 10 – 15 repetitions. Interestingly, however, studies have shown that the loss of muscle mass in sarcopenia is only partially correlated with the loss of strength, which appears to be much more rapid. Loss of power, which is defined as the combination of strength and speed appears more rapidly still.
This study found that grip strength, the timed up and go test and the physical categories in the quality of life questionnaire were significantly higher in the golfing group than the non-golfing group. More work needs to be done to understand the mechanisms behind these benefits, however it would appear that continuing to play golf for as long as possible leads to a greater quality of life up to and beyond your 80th birthday!