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Spectating can be a good form of physical exercise, but what events should you come to watch?

Posted August 2, 2017

Exercising is good for your physical and mental health – we hear about it every day. We should find a nice, physically challenging sport and just do it regularly. However, did you know that being a spectator of professional sports can benefit your health as well? A new research from the University of Edinburgh revealed which sport may have the healthiest fans.

Don’t get it wrong – you will not live longer just because you watch basketball on TV. In fact, you will not see any health benefits even if you attend games regularly. It is simply not enough to stay stationary cheering for your team or a favourite athlete. But some sports have spectators that cannot stay stationary for an extended period of time just because the action is moving. It is professional golf.

Golf spectators walk many kilometres every day when they are attending a championship event. Image credit: Tomo via Wikimedia(CC BY 2.0)

If you know anything about golf, you know that fields are huge. While athletes are moving around in special golf carts, spectators usually just walk around and so accumulate long distances over a day worth of competition. And technically they are not even doing any sport themselves – they are just enjoying the event and performance of professional athletes. It is just that those athletes move around long distances all the time and the competition takes several hours every day for several days.

Scientists surveyed of spectators from last year’s Paul Lawrie Match Play event at Archerfield Links, East Lothian, and found that they averaged about 11,500 steps per day. Interestingly, male spectators did more steps than women, being keener to see the game from more angles. Also, 60 % of the people surveyed said that they do want to be more physically active. Scientists used pedometers to track the data and it is the first study of its kind to do so with gold spectators. Researchers say that this could become one point how organizers could promote golf spectating. Not that it need much promotion, since more than 10 million people spectate at golf tournaments each year.

Interestingly, spectators list health benefits as one of the reasons why they attend these events. They enjoy being in the sun, breathing fresh air as much as they like the sport of golf. Spectating is more popular in middle aged and older adults in North America, Europe and Asia, which is good, because this age group is typically less physically active. Fun fact – spectators at the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles collectively walked a distance equal to four times around the world. Dr Andrew Murray, Physical Activity for Health Research Centre, the University of Edinburgh, said: “Walking is one of the best things you can do for your health, adding years to life, and increasing health and happiness.  These pilot findings show that golf spectators can gain physical activity which could benefit their health- while watching top quality sport at close quarters”.

But if you do not like golf, you should not feel discouraged. Just find another excuse to walk more and stay outdoors for longer.


Source: University of Edinburgh

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