Science proves that playing football on a regular basis contributes to the improvement of public health. That’s right.
Of course, being active and playing sport is a no-brainer when it comes to staying healthy, but now we have statistical evidence that the nation would be a healthier place with more people playing ‘The Beautiful Game’.
Soccer is of course the ball sport we’re talking about here and in 2014 just one of many studies showed soccer as an effective broad-spectrum treatment for hypertension (high blood pressure) in middle-aged Danish men and mature Faroese women and described the positive cardiovascular and metabolic effects of football on men with type 2 diabetes in Denmark and Brazil.
In case you were wondering, the Faroe Islands are in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of Scotland and halfway between Iceland and Norway, and the mature women there apparently play loads of football.
Famously, FIFA created a health intervention programme in Great Britain targeting football fans, utilising their love of the game to educate and inspire (mostly men) to better health, and specifically due to the social component this has shown some promising results.
A version of walking football for older adults is gaining global traction, and just Google it to find out how cool Futsal is.
The ‘FIFA 11 for Health’ programme was specifically adapted for working with boys and girls within Mexican schools for 11 weeks (and we’re just one country behind Mexico on global obesity stats).
The programme consisted of 11 ‘Play football’ sessions: Passing, Heading, Dribbling, Shielding, Defending, Trapping, Building fitness, Shooting, Goalkeeping and Teamwork.
The physical sessions were dovetailed with 11 health messages: Play football, respect girls and women, protect yourself from HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, avoid drugs, alcohol and tobacco, control your weight, wash your hands, drink clean water, eat a balanced diet, get vaccinated, take your prescribed medication and fair play. As you can imagine, promoting health messages like this had a measurably greater impact than posters about 5 plus a day.
It’s interesting to note in exploring the health benefits of playing soccer that it had some unhealthy beginnings – allegedly it was around 700AD when the first football games were played in Britain between the locals of east England, starting after a ‘legendary’ game that involved kicking around the severed head of a Danish prince that they had defeated in a war.
These games were violent, with injury and death not uncommon outcomes.
Despite the violence they were still popular and so forced King Edward III to pass laws in 1331 banning the game, and Queen Elizabeth I to enact laws in 1572 that could put a footballer in jail for a week. One must wonder if this punishment for violent behaviour has ironically now been transferred in kind to fans rather than players.
There is a long-standing truth in health and fitness that if you want to be as fit and athletic as an athlete then you have to train (almost) the same as an athlete.
Team sport activities seem to be heart-warmingly motivating for participants through the positive social interaction and the enjoyment of playing.
They are therefore more likely to result in continuing with exercise than activities that rely primarily on outcome-based motivators such as the expectation of improved health and wellbeing.
In conclusion, if you’re struggling to do what you know you should to stay healthy and well, maybe have a go at what estimates say more than 240 million others around the globe do and kick around a soccer ball.
In fact, check out www.waibopfootball.co.nz right now and find a club.
Statistically proven health benefits of playing soccer
– Improved cardiovascular (heart and lung) fitness after just two weeks of regular play (at least the same effect as continuous running/jogging)
– Improved reaction time
– Lowered blood pressure
– Improved body composition (more muscle than body fat)
– Improved mobility
– Lowered total cholesterol
– Improved mental wellbeing