Science Says: Soccer Is Good For Your Heart
Soccer, or football, as it is called most places outside of the United States, is the most popular sport in the world. Soccer is quite physically demanding, and a new study indicates it could possibly be the best way for people who suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure) to improve their fitness, normalize their blood pressure, and reduce the risk of stroke. New research compiled from the Universities of Exeter and Copenhagen, and Gentofte University in Denmark suggest that soccer training prevents cardiovascular disease in middle-aged men with hypertension, and is actually more effective than the advice currently prescribed by doctors.
The study consisted of 33 men who were between the ages of 33 and 54. Each of these men suffered from mild to moderate hypertension. Each subject was randomly placed into one of two groups: one group participated in two 1-hour soccer training sessions each week, whereas the other group (the control group) simply received the usual care from their physician, which included advice about diet and physical activity. The effects on exercise capacity, maximal oxygen uptake, body fat and blood pressure were monitored after three months, and at the end of the trial which lasted for six months.1
The results of the study revealed that the soccer group experienced a greater reduction in average mean blood pressure than the control group - 10 mmHG reduction compared to 5 mmHG reduction. The soccer group also saw significant improvements in maximal oxygen uptake, maximal exercise capacity, resting heart rate, and body fat mass. There were no significant changes in these measures for those who were in the control group. Additionally, the men who were in the soccer group were found to be less physically strained during moderate intensity exercise, and had distinctively lower heart rates and elevated fat burning in activities such as cycling.2
Lead researcher Peter Krustrup said: "Playing soccer scores a hat trick for men with hypertension: it reduces blood pressure, improves fitness and burns fat. Only two hour-long football training sessions a week for six months caused a remarkable 13/8 mmHg in arterial blood pressure, with three out of four participants normalizing their blood pressure during the study period. Other researchers on the project pointed to possible benefits in regards to decreased risk of stroke, myocardial infarction, and death. There are also plans to test the benefits of soccer on women with hypertension.3
The findings in this study make a convincing case for soccer as a means for not only improving physical fitness, but also as a way to control blood pressure. Soccer, rather than medication, could be an effective and natural approach to help alleviate the symptoms of hypertension. Combining the advice from your doctor along with a soccer regimen could result in better health, and more fun.
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