Is Golf healthier than Jogging in a COVID world?

Paul 3 months ago

A few weeks ago, I saw an interview with Dr Oz regarding Coronavirus on breakfast TV in Sydney. At that time, there was just fledgling progress on the creation of a vaccine and so Dr Oz discussed how we can all take steps to boost our immune system to help prevent infection. His advice was simple and constituted five tips:

Get a flu shot.  Although the current flu vaccine doesn't create immunity to Coronavirus, it does boost our immune system, thereby making us potentially less susceptible to infection.  So he advised 'everyone should get a flu shot this year'.

Get exercise.  Dr Oz said that 'exercise puts your body in fight mode, which also increases our immune system, so go for a walk and get some exercise everyday'.

Get sunshine.  Sunshine is a great antibacterial and we should get out in the sunshine as much as we can through this period.  If sunshine is lacking, then take Vitamin D.

Get sleep.  Sleeping aids immunity, so again, make sure you get adequate sleep to stay healthy and boost your immunity.

Get vegetables. Well, his words were more like "Eat lots of fresh green vegetables and don't make your body fight the food it is eating." Now more than ever we need to be kind to our bodies and feed it healthy food to enable it to be the best it can be.

So, after swapping my toast and marmalade for a kale smoothie plus a Vitamin D tablet, I immediately took up exercise involving a daily walk for around an hour. 

My immediate thought was how well golf is placed to assist us with a number of the Doctor's tips; exercise, sunshine and likely, sleep.  Golf is also perfectly placed to achieve the social distancing required in these COVID times and perhaps better placed than any other sport.  Some states in Australia and the USA have embraced this by allowing golf to be played, but with the 1.5m social distancing maintained via one person in a golf cart, no removal of the flag sticks, reduced numbers in the Pro Shop and no 'sports guy chest bumps' on the greens.  Obviously, the Clubhouse and bar remain closed.

The socially distanced contact with other humans would also be of significant benefit for those who are finding being isolated at home a struggle.  The virus has many flow on affects, not the least of which is the loneliness of remaining at home alone for some of our population and the impact that can have.

Other states have been slower to embrace the obvious benefits of golf with recent claims by one Premier that not playing golf would save lives.  So, presumably, playing golf could cost lives?

Now back to my new daily walk of approximately one hour down to picturesque Cremorne Point in Sydney.  It's such a nice walk that it's very popular among local residents and the pathway is often well populated with people of all ages from babies in pushchairs to the elderly.

The walk is also popular with joggers, who primarily are in the 20 to 30 year old age group, who have the highest Coronavirus infection rate, as shown from population tests in many countries, including Australia and South Korea.  The infection rate of this group is typically higher than 20%, although the mortality rate is one of the lowest of all demographics.  This 20 to 30yo demographic often has minor symptoms or are asymptomatic, but are able to spread the virus to other people, who may be less immune.

So, with this in mind, I am amazed everyday at how many of this group behaves on the daily walk to Cremorne Pt. They never maintain their 1.5m social distance and are often panting, occasionally coughing and clearing their respiratory passageways, thereby spreading droplets as they jog past. Although Coronavirus droplets are heavy and quickly fall to the ground, their trajectory from the jogger emitting the droplets would be less vertical and more likely to cause infection among the passers-by.

So although jogging may have great health benefits to the jogger, I wonder whether there is a downside for the people they jog past?

Image courtesy of CDC on Unsplash