This edition of the Fast Fact highlights the potential health benefits associated with playing football, highlighting an editorial review from the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sport.1. This is to coincide with World Health Day1.
More than fifteen years of research has demonstrated the positive effects of football training on health, with a broad-spectrum impact on the prevention, treatment or rehabilitation of many diseases. Most of this research has focused on small-sided football games played on smaller pitches. These games are generally more intense than traditional 11-a-side football and combine strength, endurance and aerobic high-intensity activity.
The results of these studies are comprehensive in the ability for football, as the world’s most popular sport, to be utilised to enhance the health and well-being of the general population. Football has been shown to be safe and beneficial for patients (both male and female, and of all ages) with a variety of health problems. There is data showing that football is effective for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteopenia, severe obesity and several different types of cancer. The application of football as medicine is currently being looked at for refugees and socially deprived groups, as well as patients with Parkinson’s disease, dementia, psoriasis, asthma and anxiety. “Walking football’ is another option to achieve health benefits in those patient groups unable to participate in running football.
Football has been demonstrated to increase fitness, motor skills, cognitive functioning and psycho-social well-being. The potential use of football in the prevention and treatment of non-musculoskeletal disease has gained huge traction and the evidence points towards health benefits that are applicable to our world-wide population.