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‘Soccer is medicine’ says new study

One hour of football training twice a week for just 3-6 months brought a variety of health benefits. (Photo: AFP)

One hour of football training twice a week for just 3-6 months brought a variety of health benefits. (Photo: AFP)

Good news for those who enjoy a weekend kickabout with friends — a new European study has found that enjoying recreational soccer (referred to as football in the study) with friends is an effective way to improve health and decrease the risk of disease such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure).
Carried out as a collaboration between the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) and the University of Nis, Serbia, the new meta-analysis looked at 31 studies to find that partaking in one hour of football training twice a week for just 3-6 months brought a variety of health benefits for untrained men and women aged 18-75 years of age.
These benefits included an increase in maximal oxygen uptake, which shows an individual’s level of cardio fitness, a lower resting heart rate, a reduction in fat mass, a reduction in the level of LDL or “bad” cholesterol, improved jump performance, and for 30-70-year-old patients with mild-to-moderate hypertension, a reduction in blood pressure.
“The results from our meta-analysis clearly emphasize that football training is an intense, effective and versatile type of training that combines HIIT-training, endurance training and strength training,” said Peter Krustrup of SDU.
“After 10 years of research, the evidence is now sufficiently strong to state that football is medicine. Football is broad-spectrum medicine for patients with hypertension, type 2 diabetes and other lifestyle diseases.”
“The most prominent results are that short-term football training is as effective as drugs against high blood pressure and as effective as HIIT-training in terms of increasing aerobic fitness. Together these effects lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases by more than 50% and may considerably lower the risk of death,” Krustrup added. “In addition, there are multiple positive effects on body composition and lipid profile, making football a very attractive type of broad-spectrum non-pharmacological intervention against lifestyle diseases,” he concluded.
Krustrup also stressed that the football looked at in the studies was not of the professional level seen on TV. Instead, in order to reap the benefits he and his team are recommending small-sided football training with a lower risk of injury, such as 5-aside matches, not competitive games.
He gives the example of Football Fitness, which is an evidence-based Danish concept that is comprised of a thorough warm-up including strength, balance and dribbling exercises, followed by drills and small-sided games on small pitches. No competitive matches are played and it is a type of football that can be played and enjoyed by all, regardless of age, gender, level of football experience and physical fitness.
The findings are due to be published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) on Friday February 2. (-AFP Relax.)


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