Health benefits of soccer

Health benefits of soccer
Closeup of a Soccer Player Legs in Action

Today we all watch soccer from the perspective of a ufabet  mass sport. But who has stopped to observe this sport from the point of view of health? What health benefits of soccer are there? Is soccer an activity capable of improving our body considerably through its recreational practice?

Various and current studies are demonstrating the excellent capacity that this sport has to improve physical condition, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as improve not only physiological but also psychological and social parameters, even superior to traditional moderate and continuous.

But this does not stop there, as we will see in the second part of this series of two articles, a very young line of research is beginning to investigate what happens when people with pathologies such as hypertension, obesity or type II diabetes begin to practice this sport without another goal than to enjoy your practice. The results are promising, soccer could be an alternative treatment based on physical activity, very important for these conditions or pathologies, so much so that there are many health benefits of soccer. Let us analyze in depth this new vision on soccer.

Health benefits of soccer for sedentary people

In our society, soccer is a very popular team sport with over 400 million active players worldwide, due to motivational and social factors, it may contain great potential as a health promotion activity for inactive people passionate about this sport .

In soccer, many actions take place such as sprints, sudden accelerations and decelerations, maximum jumps, quick blows with the foot and many other situations. This integration of different types of actions and exercises that occur in football, seem to have a great impact on the three main areas of fitness (metabolic fitness, cardiovascular fitness, muskuloskeletal fitness), which leads to a significant positive impact on risk. suffering from diseases derived from our current lifestyle.

Short and long-term studies have shown that regular participation in soccer training recreationally has a wide range of benefits in physical condition, as well as favorable effects on cardiovascular risk factors such as maximum oxygen consumption, cardiac function or mass. body fat in sedentary young men and women.

In addition to short-term benefits, people who have played soccer permanently throughout their lives are associated with better left ventricular systolic function, better physical fitness, microvascular function, and healthier body composition than adults. healthy of the same age, but who have been most of their sedentary lives. What could reduce cardiovascular mortality and morbidity.

The benefits of this sports practice in a recreational way have not only been examined in physiological parameters, recreational football is also an activity that promotes social interaction, the creation of social capital and networks between people. It also appears to have the potential to promote long-term adherence to physical activity, even for men and women with no prior experience in the sport. In these inexperienced people, a rewarding psychological state and low concern scores were reported during the game, considering soccer training as a fun and rewarding activity in itself.

What results is scientific research providing us about the health benefits of football?

Regular participation in recreational soccer training organized in the form of reduced game situations (5 × 5, 7 × 7, etc.), two to three times a week, has been an effective strategy, according to various authors, to provoke cardiovascular adaptations and significant muscle, including muscle growth and increased levels of muscle strength, regardless of age, sex or level of soccer experience.

One study  compared the effects of a recreational soccer program with a parallel intervention group that performed continuous running. In this study, they found that during the 12 weeks of the program, the soccer group recorded, in contrast to the continuous running group, an increase in lean body mass and bone mass in the legs, as well as an increase in the oxidation of fats during the race and a significant reduction in LDL cholesterol levels.

These data suggest that intermittent exercise typical of an activity such as soccer, with maximum and submaximal periods of heart rate and multiple intense actions during training, stimulates the musculoskeletal system and causes significant cardiovascular adaptations in a period of 3 months.

Along with these named improvements, it is noteworthy that the improvements obtained during a relatively short training period (12 weeks), such as those experienced by subjects participating in another study (8), such as high levels of lean body mass and VO2max , as well as reduced levels of blood pressure and fat mass were maintained for a year, although the training sessions were reduced from 2-3 to 1-2 times per week from week 12.

As previously highlighted, one of the greatest advantages of soccer is that it is a motivation for a large number of people around the world. Proof of the importance of this sport to improve health is this intervention carried out  where they applied a recreational soccer program to homeless people, using this sport as an activity to improve the physical condition and cardiovascular health of this population group.

With 12 weeks of training in 3 weekly sessions, these people improved their maximum oxygen consumption (from 36.7 to 40.6 ml / min / kg), reduced their percentage of fat by 1.6 kg and LDL cholesterol by 6 %, also significantly improved endurance and ability to perform intermittent exercises.

Regarding its benefit in children and young people, soccer training has been shown as a method to improve performance in intermittent exercises, coordination and maximum oxygen consumption. Furthermore, for obese children, regular participation is at least as effective in improving physical condition, parameters related to health and self-esteem as a traditional physical exercise program.

Improvements in bone mineral content and bone density area were also observed in prepubertal children who had participated in soccer activities for one year compared to a control group, indicating that participation in soccer at this age is not only positive for improving physical condition and decrease body fat mass but also to increase bone mass and density levels, a very important aspect to develop at these ages in the face of adult life.

In addition to all the effects observed in men, in recent years, the health effects of playing soccer recreationally in untrained women have shown increasing interest through publications that have examined the effects that this type of sport contributes to various parameters. Health.

One of the studies (1) compared the cardiovascular health profile of a group of 27 elite soccer players (24.4 ± 4.0 years, 172 ± 5 cm and 64.3 ± 6.0 kg) with a control group of 28 untrained women (29, 3 ± 5.7 years, 168 ± 5 cm) and a group of 8 untrained women (27.0 ± 6.5 years, 169 ± 8 cm and 74.0 ± 10.8 kg) who participated in soccer training during a 16-week program. Although the results showed that elite-level players had a better cardiovascular health profile, a higher level of maximum oxygen consumption, a lower percentage of body fat and better cardiac function than the group of untrained women, the results also showed that the profile The cardiovascular health of the group of untrained women improved markedly through participation in soccer training.

On the other hand, if we focus on the benefits for the musculoskeletal system, it has been found that a group of 8 untrained women (27.0 ± 6.5 years, VO2max 33.8 ± 5.7 mL / min / kg ) after participating in a 16-week recreational football program, they benefited from positive adaptations related to the musculoskeletal health profile, including increased lean mass, reduced fat mass, and improved postural balance.

The long-term effects of recreational soccer practice for women have been investigated, finding that approximately two hours of weekly training for 16 months also improved cardiorespiratory fitness, musculoskeletal function, and echocardiographic variables significantly (15).

(Ryan Casey/

What is causing all these adaptations?

One of the characteristics that may be causing such favorable results and in such diverse populations, from youth to adults, regardless of age and sex, may be the high heart rate rates observed in different types of recreational soccer training, through the variation of the number of players and the game space. These play situations, typically in tight spaces (4 × 4, 5 × 5, 6 × 6, 7 × 7), appear to have the potential to create physiological adaptations and improve performance with regular training across all of this variety of population groups.

In addition, factors such as the number of players or the size of the playing area affect the responses regarding heart rate, increasing the cardiovascular demand of the game when it is carried out with fewer players. Therefore the number of players stands as a primary factor when it comes to controlling the intensity of tasks and training in soccer (16).

 The true protagonists of the game

As you have read, soccer can contribute much more than it is currently contributing to us. As a show we all want this sport to continue offering us its best stars through our televisions and soccer stadiums. But little by little, we have to get the true protagonists of this game to be all those people who are sitting on the sofa, waiting to see their idols.

This sport gives us too many physiological justifications to give it the importance it deserves in terms of health promotion in society. Soccer can become a great tool to cross the line of sedentary lifestyle and inactivity for thousands of people who love this sport, and move towards more active and healthy behaviors.

In the next publication of this series of two articles, we will talk about the effects of soccer practice in people with pathologies of great social relevance such as hypertension, obesity or type II diabetes, among others, again under the perspective of the latest research and of this new line of research that is emerging to give soccer a new perspective: the perspective of the benefits of soccer for health.


  1. Randers, M. B., Andersen, L. J., Orntoft, C., Bendiksen, M., Johansen, L., Horton, J., Krustrup, P. (2013). Cardiovascular health profile of elite female football players compared to untrained controls before and after short-term football training. Journal of Sports Sciences, 31(13), 1421-1431.
  2. Randers, M. B., Nielsen, J. J., Krustrup, B. R., Sundstrup, E., Jakobsen, M. D., Nybo, L., Krustrup, P. (2010). Positive performance and health effects of a football training program over 12 weeks can be maintained over a 1-year period with reduced training frequency. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 20 Suppl 1, 80-89.
  3. Krustrup, P., Aagaard, P., Nybo, L., Petersen, J., Mohr, M., & Bangsbo, J. (2010). Recreational football as a health promoting activity: a topical review. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 20 Suppl 1, 1-13.
  4. Krustrup, P., Randers, M. B., Andersen, L. J., Jackman, S. R., Bangsbo, J., & Hansen, P. R. (2013). Soccer improves fitness and attenuates cardiovascular risk factors in hypertensive men. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 45(3), 553-560.
  5. Schmidt, J. F., Andersen, T. R., Andersen, L. J., Randers, M. B., Hornstrup, T., Hansen, P. R., Krustrup, P. (2013). Cardiovascular function is better in veteran football players than age-matched untrained elderly healthy men. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 25(1), 61-69.
  6. Krustrup, P., Dvorak, J., Junge, A., & Bangsbo, J. (2010). Executive summary: the health and fitness benefits of regular participation in small-sided football games. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 20 Suppl 1, 132-135.
  7. Krustrup, P., Nielsen, J. J., Krustrup, B. R., Christensen, J. F., Pedersen, H., Randers, M. B., Bangsbo, J. (2009). Recreational soccer is an effective health-promoting activity for untrained men. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 43(11), 825-831.
  8. Randers, M. B., Nybo, L., Petersen, J., Nielsen, J. J., Christiansen, L., Bendiksen, M., Krustrup, P. (2010). Activity profile and physiological response to football training for untrained males and females, elderly and youngsters: influence of the number of players. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 20 Suppl 1, 14-23.
  9. Randers, M. B., Petersen, J., Andersen, L. J., Krustrup, B. R., Hornstrup, T., Nielsen, J. J., Krustrup, P. (2012). Short-term street soccer improves fitness and cardiovascular health status of homeless men. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 112(6), 2097-2106.
  10. Vicente-Rodriguez, G., Jimenez-Ramirez, J., Ara, I., Serrano-Sanchez, J. A., Dorado, C., & Calbet, J. A. (2003). Enhanced bone mass and physical fitness in prepubescent footballers. Bone, 33(5), 853-859.
  11. Andersen, L. J., Hansen, P. R., Sogaard, P., Madsen, J. K., Bech, J., & Krustrup, P. (2010). Improvement of systolic and diastolic heart function after physical training in sedentary women. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 20 Suppl 1, 50-57.
  12. Bangsbo, J., Nielsen, J. J., Mohr, M., Randers, M. B., Krustrup, B. R., Brito, J., Krustrup, P. (2010). Performance enhancements and muscular adaptations of a 16-week recreational football intervention for untrained women. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 20 Suppl 1, 24-30.
  13. Helge, E. W., Aagaard, P., Jakobsen, M. D., Sundstrup, E., Randers, M. B., Karlsson, M. K., & Krustrup, P. (2010). Recreational football training decreases risk factors for bone fractures in untrained premenopausal women. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 20 Suppl 1, 31-39.
  14. Jackman, S. R., Scott, S., Randers, M. B., Orntoft, C., Blackwell, J., Zar, A., Krustrup, P. (2013). Musculoskeletal health profile for elite female footballers versus untrained young women before and after 16 weeks of football training. Journal of Sports Sciences, 31(13), 1468-1474.
  15. Krustrup, P., Hansen, P. R., Andersen, L. J., Jakobsen, M. D., Sundstrup, E., Randers, M. B., Bangsbo, J. (2010). Long-term musculoskeletal and cardiac health effects of recreational football and running for premenopausal women. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 20 Suppl 1, 58-71.
  16. Aslan, A. (2013). Cardiovascular responses, perceived exertion and technical actions during small-sided recreational soccer: effects of pitch size and number of players. Journal of Human Kinetics, 38, 95-105.