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Soccer Is Medicine

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Just in time for the World Cup™, researchers have found that football, or soccer as it’s known in the United States, is medicine. So go ahead and encourage clients to play it in their spare time! “Football is broad-spectrum medicine for patients with hypertension, type 2 diabetes and other lifestyle diseases,” according to Peter Krustrup, PhD, professor and head of the Sports and Health Sciences Research Unit at the University of Southern Denmark. Practicing soccer includes endurance training, high-intensity interval training and strength training, the scientists noted.

The review study found that recreational soccer training is an effective method of multi­faceted training with great potential to stimulate improvements in cardiovascular, metabolic and musculoskeletal fitness. Researchers evaluated 31 studies, which included men and women aged 18–75. Soccer training typically consists of multiple strength training elements; high-intensity running drills; and hundreds of specific intense actions such as dribbles, shots, tackles,
turns and jumps in 60-minute sessions.

Data analysis showed that participants in regular soccer training reduced hypertension, lost fat, increased muscle mass, improved blood cholesterol levels and glucose tolerance, and lowered resting heart rate when compared with people who did not participate in any exercise. Soccer participation also had social, motivational and competitive components that benefited enthusiasts. The majority of these benefits were observable after just 12 weeks of training.

This study was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2018; doi:10.1136/bjsports-2017-097885).

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Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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