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Friday, April 18, 2014

Doctor's Orders: Play More Golf!

We all know golf is good for our health.  It just makes sense that swinging a golf club 80 or 90 or 110 times in a 4 hour period and climbing in and out of bunkers have cardiovascular benefits we can't get sitting on the sofa clicking buttons on our remotes.

But wait! There's more.  Every diabetic golfer knows that blood glucose goes down as exercise increases, and that means the more we golf the more we can eat stuff we wouldn't normally eat if we were sitting on the sofa managing the remote.  I've determined through some quasi-scientific research that if I get out of the cart while my partner is preparing to hit her ball, take a couple of clubs and walk to my own ball, take my shot and then start walking back toward the cart, over the course of an 18-hole round I will log between 2 and 2.5 miles of walking.  So, even if you don't want to schlep your clubs, if you're a cart-riding golfer like me and you detest the gym and treadmills, you can still get in a decent amount of "exercise" by playing three rounds of golf a week.

There's yet more.  The best is yet to come, particularly for those of us who fall into the Women Over 50 demographic!  Several years ago during a routine physical exam my primary care physician recommended I start getting bone scans.  I'd hit the demographic and it was time to start monitoring those parts of my body that could put me out of commission.  I wasn't worried.  I'm an aging jock.  I've been physically active throughout my life, although my passion has focused on different sports at different points in my development.

I was a sailor well into my 20s, until it became somewhat inconvenient to strap toddlers onto the deck of an 18' sailboat and tell them to hang on tight while mommy steered a boat healed at 45 degrees into a stiff wind!  Then I switched to tennis -- and gave them junior tennis rackets.  But tennis didn't satisfy me.  I turned to golf -- and trundled around golf courses with two young boys, one of them very reluctant to join in what I had hoped would be a pleasant family activity.

Later, I discovered running, and I ran, and ran, and ran, until I found myself icing my knees before I ran so I could run further with less pain.  My primary care physician recommended that I slow down on the running, so I turned to cross-country skiing.  Then I moved from New England back to the South and while my skis and boots moved with me they went into the back of the storage closet, behind the now-gone children's junior tennis rackets, my squash racket, and my favorite canoe paddle.  Throughout all this sporting around I was paddling up and down the swimming pool, lap after lap after lap, twice a week without fail.

You're getting the idea here.  I just wasn't particularly concerned about a bone scan.  I should have been.  I had thinning in my spine and my pelvis.  But not much -- no more than I'd expect from a woman your age, observed the doctor.

I was lured back to golf and life went on.  I occasionally gave my thinning bones a passing thought.  I was far more interested in rediscovering a game that was even more exciting and engaging the 2nd time around, perhaps because I was playing with other women my age instead of my children, one of them very reluctant to participate.  So I played more.  I began to overlook piles of undone laundry, weeds in the garden, unopened mail.  There were murmurings of domestic discontent.  I ignored them

Then it was time for another bone scan.  This time I confess to a bit of trepidation.  I'd had a broken leg in the interim -- don't even think poor little old lady.  I'd slipped on dog slobber while running down the stairs to put the dog out for his morning duties.  It was the dog's fault and had nothing to do with my age.  But it was such a little old lady event that I told casual acquaintances that an elephant from the circus had stepped on me when I got too close.  To my utter astonishment, some of them believed me.

The scan came and went.  My primary care physician called with the results: I don't know what you're doing, but do more of it.  Your bones have actually increased in density.

I put down the phone smiling, broadly.  What's the result? my partner asked.

I need to play more golf, I explained, as gravely as possible.  And, without really breaking a sweat, I'm logging 7 - 8 miles a week of walking while I'm golfing.