Keeping Trim in the Off-Season

With less golf in your routine, find other ways to burn those calories

By Neil E. Wolkodoff, PhD

If you played golf twice per week this season, you likely dropped weight. The reason is that golf burns many calories no matter what form of transport and play. Adding that energy expenditure to other daily activities, you tip the scale in your favor.

A 180-pound person would use 900 kilocalories per 18 holes in a motor cart. Twice a week, that total is 1800 kcal, half a pound of body fat. If that same person would play 18 with a pushcart, that is 1287 kcal per 18 holes. Twice a week, the result is a weekly total of 2547 kcal. Essentially 3/4 a pound of body fat! In terms of pure energy, a pound of fat is 3500 kcal. With everything else staying the same, golf can have a good effect on reducing weight over time.

Another factor in golf season weight loss is the associated seasonal exercise, which contributes to keeping your weight down. Mowing the lawn, yard work, walks, hikes, and bike riding all contribute here and there. An hour in this category per week will likely be 20-30 minutes of extra exercise in some form of structured aerobic exercise like an elliptical.

Move once per hour. It’s the off-season, it’s cold and you are indoors. The first act of expending more energy is only sitting for an hour. Taking a short walk from sitting at your desk for three minutes per hour will keep fluids from settling in the legs. In addition, it revs your resting metabolism.

Walk after breakfast or dinner. Light exercise for 20 minutes after a meal has been shown to reduce the number of triglycerides or blood fats. Reduce those compounds, and there is less to head to the fat cell for storage. If it is snowing, and you have an exercise bike, a light ride will accomplish the same result.

Aerobic or endurance exercise is the exercise key to weight loss or maintenance. Golf helped you lose weight because the total energy expenditure was significant. However, constant aerobic or distance exercise with no stops is even more potent for weight loss. Walking 45 minutes on the treadmill or using the rowing machine is almost as productive as playing golf. The reason? The body burns more fat from exercise as time goes on in continuous exercise. This is also why steps have different results than exercise all at once. Generally, three sessions a week of aerobic exercise is a starting point; four is much better.

Muscle mass aids weight loss. While golf does not have an appreciable strength benefit, it can help maintain some muscle mass in the legs. During the off-season, hit the weights with a simple routine at your local gym once or twice a week. Don’t go specific. Work the whole body, head to toe, with at least two sets per exercise, preferably three. Want to make it really simple? Find their line of weight machines and go from one end to the other three times. 30 minutes isn’t enough time or muscle load; 50-60 minutes is optimal.

Snack and Eat like Playing Golf. You likely played and consumed fewer calories during a round of golf compared to normal. It was simply not possible to stop for a giant hamburger and fries. Some bar, light sandwich, and munching as you went along was probably the rule. That bit of calorie deficit also helped trim pounds. During the off-season, try to mimic that reduction in food quantity at least three days per week. It is also an ideal time to determine which bars or snacks can replace meals on the course.

Neil E. Wolkodoff, PhD, performs research on golf and sports, and provides programs to improve human performance and health. He has worked successfully with PGA, collegiate and junior golfers over the last 25 years. Neil is the Medical Program Director for the Colorado Center for Health & Sports Science.