NASA and Your Golfing Longevity

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As our lives get longer, we should in theory be getting more years to enjoy golf well into retirement. But this isn’t always the case; too many retirees are being forced to quit the game due to injuries from general wear and tear on the spine and joints.

You would be excused for thinking that the organization that won the space race and put the first man on the moon has absolutely nothing to do with our back, joint injury issues and consequent golfing longevity. But NASA astronauts have been fighting the same musculo-skeletal problems as golfers for years, only in a greatly accelerated manner.

It’s not commonly known that going into space is actually terrible for your spine and joint health. Astronauts, after spending a concentrated amount of time in space, are actually unable to walk off the shuttle when they land. They have to literally be carried off to undergo extensive rehabilitation and often sustain long-term damage to their bodies.

Dr. Carolyn Richardson has spent her working life investigating how gravity affects our health and why this phenomenon occurs in space. Her research with the University of Queensland, European Space Agency and NASA regarding the effect of gravity on our muscles and bones has laid the foundation for finding out why this happens and how to fix it. 

Dr. Richardson found that gravity is the key stimulus that our bones and deep muscle system need to provide stability to our limbs, joints and spine. She termed this stimulus Gravity Sensory Information (GSI), and the lack of GSI in space causes the breakdown of the musculo-skeletal system in astronauts. If spending extended periods of time in space, astronauts need to increase GSI as part of their exercise programs in order to maintain their musculo-skeletal health.

Since we aren’t in the habit of boarding space shuttles, you might still be wondering what this has to do with us golfers. Well, it turns out that our modern sedentary lifestyles are essentially replicating the zero-gravity environment of space that is so damaging to astronauts, although it occurs over a much longer period of time here on Earth. When adding the potentially damaging musculo-skeletal load of performing many hours hitting golf balls and certain gym work, it’s a recipe for injuries to spines and joints.

An increasing number of “everyday” activities and popular training programs are significantly reducing the amount of GSI to our bodies and causing a growing number of joint and spinal problems, particularly back pain. Spending more and more time lying on the couch, sitting with poor posture, driving cars, and doing certain kinds of traditional gym training and repetitive skills training (practicing and playing golf) is reducing GSI levels and causing the gradual breakdown of our bodies.

The GravityFit Exercise Model, developed by Dr. Richardson, is based on the principle that gradually increasing GSI to the body can reverse the process of joint and spine degeneration, restore joint stability and strengthen the deep muscle system to improve performance. GravityFit training involves specific slow and controlled movements in good posture while adding low-load resistance to the limbs and spine to increase GSI levels.

This unique system of exercise and rehabilitation has been developed by Dr. Richardson to protect the body against injury and pain and improve musculo-skeletal health in modern life. While providing postural feedback and adding GSI with some simple equipment, you can start with an easy GravityFit walking program and work all the way up to fully functional and complex whole-body movements. From there you can even start getting golf specific, training your posture and golf movement patterns.

 

I have been using the GravityFit equipment and exercise model for 5 years with my golfers. After seeing the incredibly positive impact it had on the players, I came onboard as an ambassador in 2017 to help spread the message to the wider golfing population.

One of the best examples of how effective the training can be is when I used it with Jonas Blixt to rehab from a career-threatening back injury to a PGA Tour win in just six months. I initially tested Jonas’ baseline posture, stability and balance. Then I prescribed a very simple bodyweight program that used the GravityFit equipment throughout. It helped bring awareness to his posture and movement quality while training his deep stabilizer muscles — especially in his lumbar core (think abs and low back). As he improved in the basic exercises and started experiencing less back discomfort, we gradually progressed the movements and added load to provide more Gravity Sensory Information and balance requirement.

 

Now pain-free and with a recent PGA Tour win under his belt, Jonas is one of about a dozen U.S. Tour pros who use the GravityFit equipment on a daily basis to keep awareness of good lumbar core while working on shoulder stability and training golf movement patterns. Its simple and intuitive application seems to capture the imagination of golfers, while its scientific backing and quality ensure it isn’t simply a short-term purchase that gets discarded after a few uses.

Click here for more information on GravityFit and how it can help prolong your golfing lifespan. The tailored options for equipment and detailed instructional videos ensure that you can get the right gear and use it with correct form and technique.