It is hard to watch the news these days without hearing about some frightening and horrific crime where the victim didn’t even know they were a target. But even with the proliferation of these scary events, there is a threat to our health and well-being that is statistically more likely to incapacitate or kill you than an unknown human assailant. It is silent, invisible and threatens not only your health but your quality of life. What is this deadly stalker? It is something that we all face in some degree or another: STRESS.
That’s right, stress is the emotional and physical strain we endure from the pressures of daily life. It has been reported that 75% to 90% of all visits to primary care physicians are due to stress related problems. The hectic pace of today’s techno-society, including almost instand world-wide communication of any BAD news, has contributed significantly to increased stress levels among people in all walks of life. This increased stress has manifested in numerous health issues, many of which are life-threatening.
In general, we have not done a good job of adapting to the increased stress levels we face in the modern world! Many of the pastimes we now have – including video games, watching television and “surfing” the web – not only fail to relieve stress but actually contribute to it in unhealthy ways. Our minds do not have a chance to decelerate and “unwind”. Our bodies fail to get any active physical exercise, resulting in less healthy bodies – which only contributes more to our high stress levels.
Stress is certainly not a new phenomenon. Doctors have known for years the negative effects of stress, and people in high stress environments have long been vulnerable to increased health risks. In fact, the personal physicians of many of the Presidents of the United States have focused on stress relief as a major component of health care for what is perhaps the most powerful and demanding position in the world. Although the methods of reducing stress have varied from President to President, there is one very common recommendation that would probably surprise you. It isn’t a pill; it isn’t a special diet.
The simple, effective stress relief recommendation given to many of our nation’s Presidents is to simply PLAY GOLF. That’s right – golf, the time-honored tradition of chasing a small white ball through green fields of grass in an attempt to hit it into a 4 ¼” hole has proven to have immense health benefits for both men AND women in high stress occupations. Ironically, the media has often portrayed our President’s propensity for playing golf as a negative activity. William Howard Taft, our 27th President and a highly active golfer was often ridiculed for the amount of golf he played while in office. News coverage has frequently questioned our current President for finding time to play golf when pressing issues of national importance demanded attention. This negative angle has persisted no matter what the political affiliation of the President has been, or what issues existed or did NOT exist during their term.
One of the most popular Presidents of all time – Dwight David Eisenhour – was such an avid golfer that he was often pictured with a golf club in his hand even in the Oval Office. Despite his popularity and obvious leadership ability, he was criticized for the amount of time he spent on the golf course pursuing the little white ball. Yet, as chronicled in Don’t Ask Me What I Shot, a book by Catherine M. Lewis that focuses on Eisenhour’s love for the game of golf, he was advised by his personal physician to play golf to combat the stress levels encountered in his duties as President. In fact, Lewis documents the fact that the majority of Presidents since Lyndon Johnson have used golf to reduce stress levels, contribute to their overall health and help them face the mental pressure of being President of the United States. Even Hilary Clinton observed that her husband Bill would often leave his office for an afternoon of golf, exhibiting signs of fatigue, stress and worry, only to return after his round rejuvenated and mentally refreshed, ready to tackle the pressures of the world once again. Thus, taking time to play golf could be viewed as a significant tool for improving health and boosting work productivity.
And why not? After all, golf is the game of a lifetime, adaptable to any gender and skill level. It is played in beautiful natural settings in the great outdoors, where you can have a pleasant conversation with your golfing partner while participating in an active, healthy physical exercise. It is an opportunity to spend time with your family, your friends or even a business associate that you want to know better. And best of all, golf is the perfect weapon to combat Stress – an unseen enemy that could be stalking your health, your mental happiness and even your life – right this minute.