Soccer in Your Seventies Scores Big with Health
Your favorite team didn’t win the World Cup? No worries! Here’s some soccer news we can all cheer about: Researchers have found that seniors who play soccer reap amazing health gains–even if they’ve never kicked a ball before!
That’s right, sports fans. If the most physical activity soccer has inspired in you these past few weeks is lifting the remote control and dashing to the fridge between commercial breaks, then now’s the time to take to the field. Three studies published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports demonstrated that after a mere four months of twice-weekly one-hour training sessions, a group of 26 untrained, previously inactive men ages 63 to 75 improved their maximum oxygen uptake by 15% and muscle function by 30%. The soccer training also showed promise as a guard against osteoporosis, increasing seniors’ retention of minerals (calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, etc.) in their bones.
Previous research has shown that soccer beats jogging when it comes to weight loss, muscle gain and cholesterol management. Moreover, those 70-year-old men with lifelong participation in soccer possess a postural balance and rapid muscle force that is comparable to that of 30-year-olds who haven’t played the game. But these latest findings break new ground, showing that soccer can literally change the lives of previously inactive older men. According to Professor Peter Krustrup of the Copenhagen Centre for Team Sport and Health, University of Copenhagen: “The remarkable improvements in aerobic fitness and muscle strength make it easier for the players to live an active life and overcome the physical challenges of everyday life such as climbing stairs, shopping, cycling and gardening. This benefits not only the players themselves, but also their families and friends.”
Indeed, scoring goals in the golden years may be a safer bet than long-distance running, since recent studies reveal that older athletes who run more than 20 to 25 miles a week begin to see their longevity gains evaporate. You can also choose to “walk before you run”: seniors who adopt a simple regimen of walking three times a week can improve aerobic ability, which in turn cuts their odds of premature death. What’s more, regular brisk walking can increase brain volume as we age — which guards against cognitive decline.
Published August 1, 2014