I have seen and posted in threads in the past about whether disc golf is good exercise. It always seems that there are a few fitness buffs lurking around that scoff at the idea of it being a workout, and there are always a few overweight people who provide anecdotal evidence that it helped them lose weight.
I had been meaning to play a round with a heart rate monitor on for a while just to see how my body was reacting to the play, and I finally decided to do it today.
For reference, I am 5'9" 154 lbs approaching sub-10% bodyfat with high levels of cardiovascular fitness, so my results are for someone who is already fit. An overweight/out of shape person would have even better results than I did.
I played at Bradley Park in Peoria:
The holes at this course are most flat, however there is some elevation on the walks between holes including 1 large hill climb and 1 large hill descent. Overall, it is middle of the road in terms of elevation and length. You will get worse results at a short flat course, and better results at a long hilly course.
The temperature today was mid-80's with very high humidity. This is important because higher temps will cause higher heart rate, so my results were boosted by the heat.
I played solo so I was moving at a steady pace the whole round, and I also had taken an EC stack about 3 1/2 hours prior, so the effects of the stack should have been wearing off by then but it is possible that my heart rate was elevated at the time slightly.
Round length -- 57 minutes
Average heart rate -- 114 BPM
Maximum heart rate -- 135 BPM
Estimated Calories Burned -- 396
I glanced at my monitor often, and noticed that after I threw my heart rate tended to spike into the low 120's. When I was walking up a hill carrying my bag, I was in the 130's. When I was walking on flat ground, it dropping around 105. The only time I dropped below 100 is when I was waiting for a group ahead of me to let me play through.
What this means:
With my particular data set, it is clear that my round was not highly beneficial for my fitness. I hovered around 55-65% of my maximum heart rate for the majority of the round, which is not enough to get an anaerobic workout and rarely jumped into the cardiovascular improvement zone. However, my elevated heart rate levels DID keep me in the low intensity fat burning zone, where my calorie expenditure is lower overall than a truly tough workout, however the percentage of energy pulled from fat stores is high.
Although 396 calories burned in 57 minutes is not an "efficient" workout, the fact remains it is a LONG workout and many people play disc golf for even LONGER. A few months ago I used to play daily for at least an hour every day, so burning a solid 400 calories (mostly from fat) per day most certainly qualifies as exercise and would be part of a solid weight loss routine.
As many people know, the hardest part of losing weight is the mental part. The physical part is easy, it is purely the science of eating less calories than your body uses. Boosting your body's calorie burning with a fun activity such as disc golf is certainly beneficial for those trying to shed pounds.
All that being said, if you drink a couple beers during your round that you weren't going to drink otherwise, you are going to erase any of the positives. Since this is purely a fat burning exercise and not an aerobic workout, drinking your calories back gives you no gain. Also, if you play very slow or with large groups your heart rate will have more time to recover between throws and you probably won't see as good of results either.
I would advise anyone trying to lose weight through disc golf to pop a caffeine pill or drink a cup of black coffee before your round (to boost your heart rate and fat burning ability). I would also advise to play on the courses near you with the most elevation, since walking the hills while carrying your bag will be where your heart rate is the highest.
Conclusion from my miniscule sample size: fitness buffs who tell disc golfers to get some "real exercise" need to chill out and understand that there is still great benefits for the body if disc golf is the only physical exercise you do every day, especially for an overweight person.