EDINBURGH, Scotland — Watching golf in-person might be akin to a hole-in-one for your health, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh recruited 339 golf spectators at the European Tour’s 2016 Paul Lawrie Match Play in Scotland to be monitored and surveyed after the tournament. They found that a majority (82.9%) exceeded the daily recommended daily step counts, averaging more than 11,500 steps a day.

Silhouette of person playing golf
A new study of golf fans finds they be among the fittest spectators of any sport. That’s because fans averaged more than 11,500 steps while attending a live match.

(For reasons unknown, men took, on average, 1,800 more steps a day at competitions than women, the researchers found.)

The first-of-its-kind study also revealed that 60 percent of attendees indicated they would like to be more physically active after the tournament, which helps present an argument for using an ostensibly spectator sport to improve conditioning.

It’s not as if only a handful of people watch golfing events live in-person: more than 10 million individuals worldwide are said to personally watch pros swing on the fairway annually.

Spectators seem well-aware of the physical benefits that watching golf proffers, with many respondents indicating that those perks were important reasons for attending golf tournaments.

“Walking is one of the best things you can do for you health, adding years to life, and increasing health and happiness. These pilot findings show that golf spectators can gain physical activity that could benefit their health – while watching top quality sport at close quarters,” says Dr. Andrew Murray, of the Physical Activity for Health Research Centre at the university, in a news release. “This is something that could have huge implications in terms of event attendance and encouraging more people to get interested in the sport.”

Other touted benefits of attending tournaments included being outdoors in fresh air, having time to spend with family and friends, and seeing the best of the business ply their trade.

While the consensus in academia and medicine is that consistent physical activity improves physical health, mental health, and life expectancy, golf remains a sport enjoyed primarily by older individuals of a higher socioeconomic status.

For those who do spectate — or play — golf, a number of external variables, such as weather conditions, culture, the type of tournament, and golf course terrain can affect activity levels.

Once again, the physical activity levels involved are not modest. One estimate found the collective pedometer for spectators of the 2014 Ryder Cup to be equivalent to walking around the entire world between four and six times.

The study’s findings were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

About Daniel Steingold

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