The evidence for the health benefits of increased physical activity is overwhelming. Football is a good tool for increasing levels of physical activity and has been shown to provide health benefits in both healthy players and those with a variety of medical complaints. Small-sided games are especially useful at a community level. Playing for 45-60 minutes, two or three times per week, is an effective “dose”.
Football can also be a powerful method for facilitating social change. Educational messages, linked to football, have been shown to be effective tools to provide health education. The “FIFA 11 for Health” and “11 against Ebola” campaigns have been very effective.
Players with underlying medical conditions may benefit from a pre-competition medical assessment and targeted advice about exercise prescription. It is important to set realistic goals, identify potential barriers to success, individualise the exercise advice you give your patients and to arrange early follow up.