If you’re a woman with high blood pressure, there may be a new, unlikely tool in your arsenal: soccer (to be referred to in the rest of this article by its European name, “Football”). New research out of Denmark suggests that football can not only help women lower their blood pressure, it can also improve their overall physical fitness, decrease body fat and strengthen their bones.
The study was led by professor Peter Krustrup, from the University of Southern Denmark. He calls the findings “a 4-0 health victory for Football Fitness, with the ball hitting every corner of the net.” Football Fitness is a (shocker here) football-focused fitness program.
Krustrup conducted a randomized clinical trial with thirty-one women, aged from thirty-five to fifty years old. All of the participants had moderately high blood pressure. Just one hour of football practice, two or three sessions a week for a year, had significant health impacts. It lowered their blood pressure and body fat, improved their general fitness and increased their bone density.
“Our study shows that untrained women with high blood pressure benefit greatly from Football Fitness in respect of blood pressure, body fat percentage, bone density and physical fitness. This form of football can rightly be described as effective and broad-spectrum medicine for women with high blood pressure,” Krustrup said of the research.
The study, by his accounting, corroborates previous research that shows similar results for football-as-medicine. There is also reason to believe that it may be effective in treating cardiovascular disease and Type-2 Diabetes. Regular exercise, in general, has been shown to have a significant positive impact on general mortality.
“Football fitness training comprises high-pulse training, stamina training and strength training, which explains why the women derived such significant and broad-spectrum effects on physical fitness and health by playing football for a year. What is more, they enjoyed the training and the attendance levels were high,” Krustrup continued.
The study was published in the journal Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, and was done in collaboration with Dr. Magni Mohr of the Centre of Health Sciences at the University of the Faroe Islands, as well as a research team from the Copenhagen University Hospital.
The study has turned some big heads in the Danish health community. Bent Clausen, the vice-chairman of the Danish Football Association and Kim Høgh of the Danish Heart Foundation have both expressed excitement over the study’s results.
“The Danish Heart Foundation aims to prevent cardiovascular disease,” commented Høgh. “Which causes one in four deaths in Denmark. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for all people, and as we will be focusing on women’s hearts in the coming years, this is a very interesting study showing that Football Fitness has huge positive potential.”
Clausen comments, “Football Fitness, currently practised at 275 Danish football clubs, was conceived as part of the ‘Exercise for Life’ vision in a close collaboration between the Danish FA, the Danish Sports Confederation and DGI, which aims to create more active Danes. Nationally the goal is for 10,000 more Danes to be taking part in Football Fitness in three years. But the ambitions do not stop there. Pilot projects in the Faroe Islands, Norway, Serbia, the United Kingdom and Brazil have produced such positive results that there are realistic expectations that the concept will gain international prominence, and that is fantastic.”