(CNN) — (CNN) — Looking for ways to keep fit and healthy and even live longer? A game of golf could be the answer.
Research conducted by Scotland’s University of Edinburgh suggests golf can help your cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic health.
“We know that the moderate physical activity that golf provides increases life expectancy,” said Dr. Andrew Murray, lead researcher at the university’s Golf & Health Project. “It can help prevent and treat more than 40 major chronic diseases such as heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, breast and colon cancer.
“Given that the sport can be played by the very young to the very old, this demonstrates a wide variety of health benefits for people of all ages. One study in Sweden found regular golfers lived an average of five years longer than non-golfers.”
On a regular 18-hole course, most players will walk between four and eight miles, burning at least 500 calories. All the more reason not to move between shots in an electric golf cart.
Exposure to fresh air and sun also helps boost Vitamin-D levels, while the act of swinging a club can improve muscle endurance and balance, particularly in old age.
And the benefits aren’t just physical. Golf could help reduce the risk of anxiety, depression and dementia, improving an individual’s “wellness, self-esteem, and self-worth,” according to Murray.
He hopes that the research, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, will help boost participation levels in golf worldwide.
“Only 55 million people — about one percent of the world’s population — play golf,” he said. “Anyone can play — from the age of four to 104 — and now there is six-hole golf and speedgolf making it more accessible.
“We have to get away from the idea golf’s only a rich man’s sport — 78% of the courses across the world are available for the public to play on, not just members.”
Padraig Harrington, vice-captain of the European Ryder Cup team which lost to the US last week, agreed that the Golf & Health Project is “clearly taking an important step forward to shine a light on the benefits of the sport.
“I have seen how impactful golf can be on people’s wellbeing — now it’s time to get this message out there,” said the three-time major winner.