Oftentimes, when I go home to visit my parents, I take a long nap in front of the TV after lunch. This may be in part due to the nearly euphoric food coma that comes from my mother’s southern cooking. But primarily, this is because my dad likes to watch golf after lunch.
Now I enjoy playing golf, frequently with my dad. It’s a favorite pastime of his. But I’ve never understood watching golf. It’s intolerably dull. So my mother’s cooking combined with my dad’s golf watching inevitably knocks me unconscious.
Certain sports just weren’t meant for watching. These include golf, bowling, bocce, horseshoes, and especially the ludicrous sport of curling. This latter travesty (like golf, as it happens) was apparently an invention of my Scottish ancestors, and ranks amongst their most ridiculous inventions, right up there with bagpipes and haggis. Any sport that involves a lot of sweeping can’t even be that exciting to play, much less watch.
But I digress. In one recent visit, before I nodded off after lunch, I noticed something that I should have noticed earlier. There were no fat golfers. Which is surprising, since the level of effort that goes into golf seems so minor that many of us think it only barely counts as a sport. But take one look at almost any current PGA golfer and you’ll see that they all appear to be rail thin.
I remember one of my posher British pals telling me that Princess Anne (Queen Elizabeth’s only daughter and possibly least scandal-ridden child) once described golf as “an arduous way to go for a walk.”. But walking is exercise, so maybe golf is pretty good exercise too.
So I tried plugging an hour’s worth of golfing (using a golf cart) into the Cronometer app. The calorie burn is 260 calories per hour. This is slightly less than walking (which is about 340 per hour) and way less than running. But I rarely walk or run for more than an hour. When I golf, it lasts much longer.
It typically takes me about four hours to play eighteen holes of golf. That may seem a bit longer than average, but…I suck at golf. I like it, but I suck. I spend a lot of time swimming through the rough looking for lost balls. And, yes, I said swimming. Because in Florida, the rough is mostly just swamp. The upside of this is the swimming unloads some extra calories. Especially if I have to outswim a hungry alligator.
The point is, a round of golf will expend over a thousand calories. Sure, it’s not the most efficient way to get in shape. But I play golf to hang out and have fun with friends and family, so I don’t mind that it takes all afternoon. And it just so happens that I get a good chunk of exercise doing it. As long as I don’t ruin it by buying beers from the cart girls every other hole.
In a previous piece, I wrote about how I was exercising unintentionally during college when I traipsed across campus, back and forth between classes. So I started to wonder how some of my other hobbies and activities might also be much more beneficial than I realized.
I started thinking about some of my various slacker entertainments. One that came to mind was pool. I spent a lot of time in high school circling a pool table with my lowlife friends. Maybe I had actually been relieving myself of calories the whole time.
But I couldn’t find it in the Cronometer app, because the creators are Canadian. They still use that weirdo version of English that…actual English people use. So, I had to put in “billiards”. This turned out to be a 150 calorie per hour task. Which makes sense, because you spend a lot of time on your feet.
The problem is one beer per hour (and I usually have more than one when playing pool), can eliminate any positive effects. When play I pool with a bunch of rednecks (who are really the only people who play pool in the southeastern United States), downing a few pitchers of brew is not that uncommon. So this activity is probably a wash, at best.
Then I started to wonder about the other redneck amusements my father introduced me to when I was younger. Such as hunting and fishing. It’s a common stereotype that rednecks are fat, beer-bellied, sweaty dudes. That’s frequently true of the ones playing pool. But this is often not true in general. And it’s because their weekend recreations are actually surprisingly healthy pursuits.
Fishing is something I see all the time. When you live one hundred yards from Tampa Bay, you’re going to bump into an occasional fisherman standing on a sea wall with a line in the bay. The hardcore types put on waders and march out into the bay for the big fish. It seems like a slacker sport, but you do actually get some good from it.
Fishing while sitting will go through 100 calories an hour. Fishing while standing will do away with 250 or so per hour. This may not seem like much, but if you fish all afternoon like a hardcore hillbilly, it’s going to be significant. And the hardcore guys in waders? They burn over 500 an hour. Fighting to keep your balance against the waves while swinging a rod around is pretty good exercise.
And what about tramping around in the woods seeking furry animals to turn into food? Hunting is a pretty good way to work off some fat. I once went bird hunting with my dad and brother. It was basically hiking with an occasional potshot at a dove. We missed every time and ultimately took our frustrations out on empty beer cans some rednecks left lying in the woods. It seemed like a waste of an afternoon, but I now know that this eats up upwards of 250 calories an hour, depending on how much time you spend walking.
Now deer hunting (the gold standard of good old boy sports) doesn’t do much for you. You mostly spend time on a stand waiting to shoot Bambi in the face. Actually, that’s not true. You shoot Bambi’s parents in the face. You’re supposed to wait for Bambi to grow up before converting him into venison. Also, you’re not supposed to shoot him in the face, or else you can’t hang his head on your wall.
But even spending an hour in a deer stand will do the same amount of good as an hour of pool. And unlike pool, there’s no beer involved if I hunt. I find it wisest not to get hammered until after I put the guns down. And the calorie usage goes up if you spend time walking through the woods, setting up in different spots. And if you’re inclined to drag the corpse back to the truck, that’ll take away about 1000 calories per hour.
If you’re not inclined to shoot living things and prefer to murder clay disks, that’ll be about the same as standing in a deer stand. Standing and shooting, combined with walking from one station to the next, still counts as exercise. And skeet shooting usually takes several hours, too, so those calories will add up.
But Florida isn’t a state of just rednecks. All sorts of fancy folk retire here from all over. So what about the bourgeois diversions that some of them participate in? I see plenty of hoity-toity types riding around on horses. And I found out that horseback riding drains nearly 500 calories an hour. You may think you’re just planted on your posterior, but the horse is moving, and you have to move with him to stay seated. Just keeping your balance costs calories.
And even balancing yourself on a steel horse (which is a motorcycle for non-Bon Jovi fans) is exercise. It’s about half as good as horseback riding. I’ve seen plenty of retired people buying a motorcycle for a post midlife crisis. Apparently, it does them some good.
And another pastime of the retired bluehairs is shuffleboard. Shuffleboard will get rid of about 200 calories per hour. This surprised me a bit, but I’ve noticed that the retired people I see around town are not obese. They must be on to something.
Many of the “sports” like this which one would think do nothing for you are decent exercise. Both bowling and the laughable sweeping sport of curling burn 300 per hour. The absurd game of old Italian men (bocce) burns about 250 per hour. Even tossing horseshoes around burns 200 per hour. Which seems really odd, since you mostly just stand about.
Then it occurred to me that the exercise you get from these things is in part about the standing. Just standing for an hour burns 200 calories. This explains a lot about how I stayed thin as a young man. Both my wife and I worked in fast food for a time when we were kids. And even though we ate the crap we were selling, being on your feet for 6-8 hours in a shift offsets this. We actually lost weight in those days.
By the way, here’s a party pro-tip: This is also an excuse to drink too much at parties. If you stay on your feet at a party, you’ll work off the beers almost as quickly as you consume them. Just make sure you’re not the only one standing, or else you’ll weird people out.
I feel obligated to note that some of the exercise figures in Cronometer may not be 100% accurate. They appear to be rough averages of the number of calories used during an activity. Also, the benefit appears to vary a bit with your weight and sex. But I’ve done many of these things as I’ve lost weight. They can’t be that far off, or else I wouldn’t be shrinking.
All of this reminded me of some health advice I read years ago. It said people who are healthy don’t necessarily spend hours in the gym. It just said stay they active. We don’t always realize that we’re getting some exercise, even during our off time. The secret is not to train for marathons or spend hours picking up and putting down heavy things. Although that certainly works. The trick is to just reduce the time spent on the couch.
Spend a little more of your leisure time moving around and doing almost anything on your feet. Spend some time playing outdoor games, even seemingly low-intensity ones, instead of video games. Do a little of this every day, and you’ll be on your way to weight loss.
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