Football for health – science proves that playing football on a regular basis contributes to improvement of public health

Jan 25, 2022, 10:27 AM

On the occasion of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa 2010 and in the same journal, a special issue was dedicated to the prevention of risk factors for non-communicable diseases through playing football.

The 13 original papers concluded that football, the most popular team sport in the world, is associated with positive motivational and social factors that may facilitate compliance and persistence with the sport and at the same time contributes to the maintenance of a physically active lifestyle.

The original studies demonstrated that carrying out football training on a regular basis, two to three times a week, caused significant cardiovascular and muscular adaptation, including muscle growth and elevated muscle strength, irrespective of the level of training, experience of the game, gender, and age.

The results of extensive scientific studies have been simplified in the slogan “Playing football for 45 minutes twice a week – best prevention of non-communicable diseases”, first presented at the 59th FIFA Congress in Nassau. In line with this, the editor-in-chief of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Karim Khan, promoted the slogan “The exercise pill – time to prescribe it.” Given its popularity, football might be the appropriate exercise pill to prescribe and promote.

The research group from Copenhagen, under the leadership of Professors Peter Krustrup and Jens Bangsbo, joined forces with FIFA/F-MARC (FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre) as a number of questions remained unanswered following the research presented in 2010. During the past 4 years, these questions have been investigated in a large multinational study covering Denmark, England, Portugal, and Brazil.

Using the momentum of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, this special issue of the journal presents 16 original papers with convincing data to support the continued promotion of football as a health-enhancing leisure activity that improves social behaviour and justifies the implementation of the “FIFA 11 for Health” programme, backed and approved by the FIFA congress 2013, as a global health initiative.

The team of international researchers has thoroughly investigated numerous groups of inactive subjects across the lifespan in a prospective controlled manner. These studies, which include groups of children aged 9–13, mature women and men up to the age of 80, have produced impressive results that cannot be ignored by public health policy-makers around the globe.

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