Walking, Not Riding, Boosts Health in Golfers With Knee Woes

Walking, Not Riding, Boosts Health in Golfers With Knee Woes

TUESDAY, Feb. 26, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Walking the golf course instead of riding in a cart offers heart health benefits that may outweigh potential joint harm for golfers with knee osteoarthritis, a new small study reports.

The study included 10 golfers with knee osteoarthritis who played two 18-hole rounds of golf. They walked the course in one round and used a golf cart in the other round.

Walking did increase the golfers’ knee inflammation, but they also got significant cardiovascular benefits, according to the researchers.

“The impetus for the study stemmed from the fact that the majority of rounds of golf in the United States are now played with a golf cart, which has been suggested to affect the health benefits of the sport. We wanted to measure the effect of this in individuals with knee osteoarthritis,” said study co-author Dr. Prakash Jayabalan. He is a clinician-scientist in sports medicine at AbilityLab, in Chicago.

More than 17 million people play golf in the United States each year. In nearly 70 percent of the rounds, golfers ride in motorized carts to travel between holes. Many golfers with knee arthritis may avoid walking because they think doing so may worsen their joint pain and cartilage degradation.

Osteoarthritis is often described as being caused by wear-and-tear on the joints, and it is a leading cause of disability for Americans aged 50 and older.

However, even though walking may increase inflammation in golfers with knee osteoarthritis, the researchers said there is evidence of cartilage remodeling effects in knees whether golfers walk or ride in a cart.

Golfers should consider their individual symptoms and follow their doctor’s advice, the study authors said in a news release from the Association of Academic Physiatrists.

“Walking exercise is commonly advocated for individuals with knee osteoarthritis. Our study suggests that golf may be a good prescription of walking exercise, particularly if they walk the course, as they get more health benefits,” said Jayabalan, who is also an assistant professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The study included people who played golf regularly, so Jayabalan said the next step would be to evaluate golf as an exercise intervention for occasional golfers.

The report was presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the Association of Academic Physiatrists, in Puerto Rico. The research should be considered preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more on osteoarthritis.

SOURCE: Association of Academic Physiatrists, news release, Feb. 21, 2019

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Ditch the Golf Cart. Your Aging Knees Won’t Mind

Ditch the Golf Cart. Your Aging Knees Won’t Mind

Golfers with knee arthritis should park the golf cart and walk the links instead, researchers say.

While using a golf cart may seem the obvious choice for golfers with knee problems, a new small study finds that walking provides much greater health benefits. Moreover, it’s not associated with increased pain, inflammation or cartilage breakdown, the researchers said.

“Individuals with knee osteoarthritis are often concerned about pain and may be more likely to use a golf cart,” said lead study author Dr. Prakash Jayabalan. He’s an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

However, “this study has shown that golfers with knee osteoarthritis do not need to be concerned about worsening their disease through walking the course. In fact, walking provides the best health benefit,” Jayabalan said in a university news release.

More than 17 million Americans older than 50 golf regularly. Knee osteoarthritis is a leading cause of disability in this age group. The condition causes swelling, pain and difficulty moving the joint.

The study included 10 older golfers with knee osteoarthritis and five without the disease, which is usually caused by wear and tear of the joint.

On one day, the study participants played one round of golf (18 holes) walking the course. On another day, they used a golf cart to play 18 holes. On each occasion, the researchers monitored the participants’ heart rates to determine their level of exercise intensity, and took blood samples to measure markers of knee inflammation and cartilage stress.

On both occasions, the golfers had an increase in these markers, but there was no difference between use of the golf cart and walking, the findings showed.

When walking the course, the heart rates of the golfers with knee problems were in the moderate-intensity zone for more than 60 percent of the time, compared with 30 percent when using a cart.

But even using the cart, golfers met daily exercise recommendations, according to the study authors.

“Bottom line: walking the course is significantly better than using a golf cart, but using a golf cart is still better than not exercising at all,” Jayabalan concluded.

The study was presented recently at the Osteoarthritis Research Society International annual meeting in Liverpool, England. Research presented at meetings is usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The Arthritis Foundation has more about osteoarthritis.

SOURCE: Northwestern University, news release, April 28, 2018

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