Sports scientist Peter Krustrup and his
colleagues from the University of Copenhagen, the Copenhagen University
Hospital and Bispebjerg Hospital have followed a soccer team consisting
of 14 untrained men aged 20 to 40 years.
For a period of 3 months, the players have been subjected to
a number of tests such as fitness ratings, total mass of muscles,
percentage of fat, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and balance.
Surprising results - 2-3 weekly rounds of soccer practise,
of the duration of app. 1 hour, released massive health and
training benefits. Their percentage of fat went down, the total
mass of muscle went up, their blood pressure fell and their
fitness ratings improved significantly. Everything we tested
improved, says Peter Krustrup.
In parallel with the soccer-experiment, the research group
did the same tests on a group of joggers as well as on a passive
control group. The joggers also trained 2-3 times a week, but
their efforts showed smaller effect than that of the soccer
- It is healthy to run long distances in a moderate speed,
but the results show that soccer practise is better in a number
of ways. The improvement in fitness rating and the increase
in total muscle mass were greater in the soccer players, and
during the last 8 weeks of the experiment, only the soccer-players
showed any improvement, Peter Krustrup says.
After 12 weeks, the soccer players had lost 3.5 kilos of fat
and gained more than 2 kilos of extra muscle mass, whereas the
joggers had lost 2 kilos of fat and showed no change in total
muscle mass. Both groups showed significant improvements in
blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and balance.
The sports scientist believes that it is the shifts between
walking, running and sprinting that causes the soccer players
to experience better health improvements.
- I think that is part of the secret. Soccer is an all-round
form of practise because it both keeps the pulse up and has
many high-intensity actions. When you sprint, jump and tackle
your opponents, you use all the fibres in your muscles. When
you jog at a moderate pace, you only use the slow fibres, says
Fun takes focus from pain During the process, the participants
were asked how hard the practise was, and the feedback makes
Peter Krustrup smile. The soccer players expressed that they
did not find the practise particularly hard. The joggers always
said the opposite.
- The joggers always found it hard. Even though they moved
at the same average speed as the soccer-players, it was harder
on them. I think it is owed to the fact that when you jog you
focus on yourself. You notice the efforts and the breathlessness.
And then you start to feel a little sorry for your self, says
Peter Krustrup and continues:
- When you play soccer, you push those thoughts aside. The
players are caught up in the game and they dont notice
that their hearts are pounding. It is fun, and the team needs
all players to contribute and so they forget that it is hard.
That is also happends to be very good exercise is an additional
International fight against lifestyle related diseases The
results have encouraged the researchers to continue the research
from a physiological angle. The team has made arrangements of
cooperation with universities in Rome, Brussel and Liverpool,
and they are applying for funding through the EU, UEFA and FIFA.
Peter Krustrup sees large perspectives in soccer at exercise
level in a time of lifestyle-related diseases. When a pleasureable
and popular team-sport such as soccer turns out to be so beneficiary,
it would make sense to consider that sport in the national and
international efforts to prevent and treat lifestyle-related
- In the fight against obesity and inactivity, soccer seems
to be an obvious alternative to jogging and fitness. Soccer
is a popular sport in large parts of the population, and experience
tells us that there are good chances of growing a permanent
affiliation with a sport when it is both fun and combined youre
your social life, says Krustrup and continues:
- It really doesnt take a lot. A lawn, two goalposts
and a ball is all you need to begin a health-promoting training
programme for 22 people.
The international cooperation will continue research in soccer
at exercise level for various age groups. The researchers also
consider examining other sports such as handball, volleyball
Facts about the project: For a period of 12 weeks, a group
of soccer players and joggers have been active for for one hour
2-3 times a week. The participants have been continuingly subjected
to tests: fitness rating, percentage of bodyfat, total mass
of muscles, cholesterol, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity