Football has been shown to be an effective intervention for improving a variety of health-related parameters. 1 These include reducing body mass index, improving blood lipid levels and enhancing bone density. This can be done with a relatively limited number of sessions. Health benefits have been demonstrated in healthy men, women and children.
Football can also be safely enjoyed by older players, with the health benefits being evident in this group too.
- Blood pressure
- A period of recreational football training has been shown to reduce blood pressure. In a study of normotensive men, this reduction was between 7 and 8 mmHg (systolic). Diastolic blood pressure was reduced by between 5 and 7 mmHg. 2
- VO2 max
- Regular football training can increase the maximum oxygen uptake. An increase of between 7% and 15% has been reported in a range of different training studies lasting 12-16 weeks.1
- Resting heart rate
- Heart rate at rest is reduced by 5 to 10 bpm by regular football participation. This is likely due to training effects on the heart, including positive effects on heart function and structure. An increased stroke volume is likely.
- Lipid profile
- Total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (so-called “bad” cholesterol) levels can be lowered by recreational football training. LDL cholesterol levels fell by 13% in young and middle-aged homeless men who played street football three times a week for 12 weeks. 3
- Body composition
- Regular football participation has been shown to reduce body weight, reduce body fat and increase lean body mass. These effects were evident after only twelve weeks of regular participation.
- Bone mineral density
- Participation in small-sided games can increase bone mineral density. This effect has been shown in young, sedentary women and men and in elderly participants (where the risk of fractures is substantially increased). 4,5 Increases of up to 5.4% were seen in elderly players after 12 months of training. 5 The magnitude of this increase is higher than that seen with other exercise interventions.