I am an 86-year old fit woman. I have been a keen golfer for a great many years but now I find it very difficult walking any distance, which means I can no longer play comfortably. How might I regain the strength in my legs, or is it something I have to live with?
You say you are “fit”, so it’s a bit of a mystery why you find walking so difficult. Your starting point should be to get your GP to check out whether there are any underlying medical causes, such as neurological problems or cardiovascular limitations, either of which could make your legs feel weak and tired. If you get a clean bill of health, you have probably just lost a bit of your fitness in recent years, including all-important muscle strength in your legs. The good news is, it’s never too late to recover it.
Do a reality check on your fitness. To keep your heart and lungs in good shape you should be out and about for at least five days out of seven, and walking or doing other activities at a level that makes your heart beat faster than normal, for at least 30 minutes each day. That’s “brisk” walking, rather than sauntering.
Although this will keep your heart in basic condition, you need a bit more fitness to last a full round of golf in comfort. Starting with however much walking you can manage, build up to an hour a day. Increase the walk gradually and patiently, adding, say, three minutes to your walk time each week.
Also, vary your speed more: try one minute of faster walking, then slow down until you feel recovered, then do another fast minute and so on. After a few sessions, try the faster walking for two minutes before you slow down to recover and so on.
I am emphasising your heart and lung fitness because the extra boost to your system will help regain efficiency in your legs, too – mainly through better oxygen delivery and energy processing.
Alongside this, start doing some quick and simple leg muscle exercises. Using a chair-back for touch support, stand with your feet hip-width apart, heels and toes facing forwards, and rise up on your toes. Hold for a count of 5 (keep on breathing), lower back down and repeat. Do this 10 times a day. Click here for the full exericse.
Next, with your back leaning against a wall and your feet hip-width apart about one foot-length away from the wall, put a slight bend in your knees and then pull your toes off the ground. Keep them pulled up for a count of 5, lower down and repeat 10 times daily. Click here for the full exericse.
If you can find a local “strength and balance” class or tai chi for seniors, the exercises will help your all-over strength, including back, bum and stomach muscles – all important for the golf course. Don’t expect instant results, but do set yourself a goal of getting back out and carrying on playing the game you love.