golf player putting golf ball into hole

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BOSTON — Playing golf is better for the balance and mobility of Parkinson’s disease sufferers than doing tai chi, research reveals. Nearly one million people in the U.S. are living with the debilitating condition, per the Parkinson’s Foundation. It’s estimated that about  60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s each year.

Researchers studied 20 people with moderate symptoms of the central nervous system disorder, who were offered ten weeks of golf or tai chi at no cost. Participants were timed while getting up from a chair, walking ten feet, and then returning to the chair and sitting down.

“We know that people with Parkinson’s disease benefit from exercise, but not enough people with the disease get enough exercise as therapy,” says study author Dr. Anne-Marie Wills of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, in a statement. “Golf is popular — the most popular sport for people over the age of 55 — which might encourage people to try it and stick with it. We decided to compare golf to Tai Chi in our study because Tai Chi is the gold standard for balance and preventing falls in people with Parkinson’s.”

They discovered that people who practiced their golf swing at a driving range were quicker and more mobile at the end of the study.

“While the results for golf might be surprising, it’s important to remember that the number of participants in our study was small, and the period over which we studied them was relatively short,” notes Wills. “More research in larger groups of people, over longer periods of time, is needed.”

The study also shows that 86 percent of golfers said they were more likely to continue with the activity, compared to 33 percent of people who practiced tai chi. “Our finding that golfers were much more likely to continue with their sport is exciting because it doesn’t matter how beneficial an exercise is on paper if you people don’t actually do it,” said Dr. Wills. “So if swinging a golf club is more appealing than practicing Tai Chi, by all means, go to a driving range and hit balls for an hour instead.”

The study was presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 73rd Annual Meeting.

SWNS writer Joe Morgan contributed to this report.

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