Treatment of disease

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Exercise is a powerful treatment. Regular exercise has been shown to be more effective than metformin for type-II diabetes, more effective than chemotherapy for bowel cancer recurrence and a powerful treatment tool for mental illness (and other conditions). A number of studies have looked at football as a treatment for chronic health conditions.

Click on the following tabs to read about some examples where football can be used to treat chronic disease.

Football training has been shown to be an effective treatment for male and female players with hypertension. 6,7 Playing football twice a week (over a period of 24 weeks) led to a reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Systolic pressure fell from an average of 151 mmHg to 139 mmHg while diastolic pressure fell from 92 to 84 mmHg. Training also lowered BP in players with type-II diabetes. 8 The magnitude of these reductions compares favourably with the effect of beta-blockers (one of the most widely prescribed anti-hypertensive medications).
Type-II diabetes
Regular football participation, combined with dietary changes has been shown to improve diabetic control. 7,9 After this intervention, both blood glucose and Hb1Ac values decreased. HbA1c fell by an average of 1.0% following 12 weeks of football training combined with restricted caloric intake, indicating that a combination of football training and diet intervention is an effective way in which to improve insulin sensitivity.

Football training also reduces blood pressure and lipid levels in type-II diabetics. This is also likely to improve the health status of these patients.

Prostate cancer
Football has been successfully used as an adjunctive treatment in patients who have prostate cancer. 10 Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) is a commonly used treatment for prostate cancer. Unfortunately, this treatment impairs musculoskeletal and cardiovascular health. Possible side effects include reduced bone and muscle strength and increased fracture rates. Several studies have shown that regular football training can enhance bone mineral density and physical functioning in men undergoing ADT for prostate cancer. Football training has been shown to improve the femoral shaft and total hip bone mineral density as well as measures of physical functioning when compared to control.
Like other forms of physical activity, football can be used to help treat a wide range of disease processes. Compliance is however often higher with football as it is seen to be more enjoyable.

Prof Peter Krustrup

Professor of Sport and Health Sciences