Healthy living * Weight loss

Football is good for you

men and women can benefit from playing football regularly Playing it not watching it

The success of the football Premier League may have helped turn us all into couch potatoes, but if more of us actually played the "beautiful game" it would have a big impact on our health, according to a new study.

Playing football twice a week can cause a significant fall in blood pressure, resting pulse rate, and percentage of body fat after only three months. What's more, the positive effects of a kick around the park are greater then many other forms of more intense physical exercise such as weight training.

In fact studies show that a regular game of soccer affects numerous cardiovascular risk factors such as maximal oxygen uptake, heart function, elasticity of the vascular system, blood pressure, cholesterol and fat mass far more than say strength training and just as much if not more than running.

Leader of the study, Peter Krustrup, commented: "Our research shows that soccer is a versatile and intense form of exercise that provides a positive effect on cardiovascular risk factors in a large group of untrained adult men and women," and continues: "Based on the results, soccer can be recommended as part of the treatment for high blood pressure and as broad-spectred prevention of cardiovascular diseases."

About the study

50 researchers from seven countries studied the physical, psychological and social aspects of soccer. Groups playing football were compared to other exercise groups and inactive controls (people who did not do any form of exercise). The study found that when untrained children, teens, adults and older people play soccer, their pulse rate remains high and they perform multiple intense actions like sprints, turns, kicks and tackles.

"Our analyses also showed that the pulse rate and activity profile is the same in small-sided games where only 4, 6, 8 or 14 people play. In other words, it is very easy to obtain a combination of cardio and strength training with soccer," concludes Krustrup.

Furthermore, associate professor Peter Riis Hansen from Gentofte Hospital suggests that football may have other favourable effects on the vascular system, namely a reduction of arterial stiffness, which has been associated with improved cardiovascular outcomes.

This is part of a larger study and more results will be published in the coming months. The study was carried out by a team at the University of Copenhagen.

This article was published on Wed 3 February 2010



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