Soccer scores a health hat trick for hypertensive men

October 15, 2012

Playing soccer (football) could be the best way for people with high blood pressure, known as hypertension, to improve their fitness, normalise their blood pressure and reduce their risk of stroke. Research from Universities of Exeter and Copenhagen, and Gentofte University Hospital in Denmark, published today (October 15, 2012) in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 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.

After six months of , three out of four men in this study had blood pressure within the normal, healthy range.

Almost one third of British men have hypertension, which increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases including stroke and . It has long been known that can reduce blood pressure in patients with hypertension, but until now little evidence is available on which form of exercise is most effective.

The research team recruited 33 men aged between 33 and 54 with mild to moderate hypertension. 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. The effects on exercise capacity, maximal oxygen uptake, body fat and blood pressure, were monitored after three months and at the end of the six-month trial.

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, and maximal exercise capacity was improved by10 per cent, 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 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.

Lead researcher Professor Peter Krustrup of the University of Exeter said: "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.

"The soccer training also boosted the aerobic fitness and resulted in marked improvements in both maximal and moderate . 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."

Professor Peter Krustrup concludes "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."

Senior cardiologist from Gentofte University Hospital in Denmark, Peter Riis Hansen, also emphasised that evidence suggests that the decrease in blood pressure after football training lead to a considerable reduction in the risk of stroke, myocardial infarction and death. "He said: Our results are very exciting and we are now trying to understand the findings in more depth, for example by investigating the effects of playing football on the heart's structure and function.

"Recent studies from our research group have also shown positive effects of football training on the blood pressure and heart in premenopausal women with normal and we are now aiming to test the effects of football in women with hypertension."

Explore further: Soccer could give homeless men a health kick, study says

Related Stories

Soccer could give homeless men a health kick, study says

October 2, 2011
Playing street football two or three times a week could halve the risk of early death in homeless men. Research led by the Universities of Exeter and Copenhagen, out today, shows the positive impact of street football on ...

Relation of poor sleep quality to resistant hypertension

September 21, 2012
For people who already have high blood pressure, insomnia can have serious consequences, according to a new study presented at the American Heart Association's High Blood Pressure Research 2012 Scientific Sessions.

Recommended for you

To reduce postoperative pain, consider sleep—and caffeine

August 18, 2017
Sleep is essential for good mental and physical health, and chronic insufficient sleep increases the risk for several chronic health problems.

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

Doctors exploring how to prescribe income security

August 18, 2017
Physicians at St. Michael's Hospital are studying how full-time income support workers hired by health-care clinics can help vulnerable patients or those living in poverty improve their finances and their health.

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.

Federal snack program does not yield expected impacts, researchers find

August 17, 2017
A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by ...

In a nutshell: Walnuts activate brain region involved in appetite control

August 17, 2017
Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.