Washington: Playing soccer could be the best way for people suffering from hypertension to improve their fitness, normalise their blood pressure and cut their stroke risk, a study has revealed.
Research from Universities of Exeter and Copenhagen, and Gentofte University Hospital in Denmark suggests that soccer training prevents cardiovascular disease in middle-aged men with hypertension and is more effective than healthy lifestyle advice currently prescribed by GPs.
The research team recruited 33 men aged between 33 and 54 with mild to moderate hypertension.
After six months of soccer training, three out of four men in this study had blood pressure within the normal, healthy range.
They randomly divided them in two groups: one took part in two hour-long soccer training sessions a week while the other received usual care by a GP including advice about the importance of physical activity and a healthy diet, together with control blood pressure measurements.
For the soccer-playing group, average mean blood pressure was reduced by 10 mmHg, while the reduction was only 5 mmHg in the control group receiving the usual GP advice.
For the football group, maximal oxygen uptake and maximal exercise capacity was improved by 10 percent, resting heart rate decreased by eight beats per minute and body fat mass dropped by an average of two kilograms.
No significant changes to these health measures were observed in the control group.
The men who had taken part in soccer training were also found to be less physically strained during moderate intensity exercise. When taking part in activities such as cycling, they had markedly lower heart rates and elevated fat burning.
“Playing soccer scores a hat trick for men with hypertension: it reduces blood pressure, improves fitness and burns fat. Only two hour-long football training sessions a week for six months caused a remarkable 13/8 mmHg in arterial blood pressure, with three out of four participants normalising their blood pressure during the study period,” Lead researcher Professor Peter Krustrup of the University of Exeter said.
“The soccer training also boosted the aerobic fitness and resulted in marked improvements in both maximal and moderate exercise capacity. Playing football made it easier for previously untrained men to train even harder, and also make it easier for them to cope with everyday life activities such as cycling, walking upstairs, shopping and lawn mowing.”
He added, “although our previous research has highlighted the many health benefits of playing soccer, this is the first evidence that soccer may contribute fundamentally to prevention of cardiovascular disease in hypertensive men.”
The study is published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.