Football, or “the Beautiful Game”, is one of the most popular participation sports around the world, and because of the physical and mental attributes required to take part it is a great way of keeping fit.
According to FIFA, the sport’s global governing body, 265 million people play the game – around 4% of the world’s population.
Obviously, the vast numbers include professional and semi-professional participants, but research suggests that even a five-a-side kick-about with friends could improve your health.
Any level of organised game will involve some football training drills, and it’s true that football training drills can help performance and improve fitness levels.
If you have long-standing injuries, it may be worth discussing them with your doctor before you take part in any football training drills or a game.
Once you have the go-ahead you can expect to reap the health benefits which football can offer. These include improving the condition of your heart and blood pressure, increasing muscle density and bone structure as well as reducing the fat content of your body. You will also see an increase in your stamina and strength.
There are also significant mental health benefits on offer. You will be training your brain as well as your body and so should see improvements in your co-ordination and concentration. By working in a team, you will also see improvements in your communication skills, with the added benefit of increasing your social skills and boosting self-confidence.
Playing the game helps to improve not only your aerobic system, helping transfer oxygen to your muscles, but also your anaerobic system by producing more energy. This double benefit results from the activity you undertake during a game – a mixture of walking, jogging, sprinting and high-intensity running.
Your football training will also involve power training and strength programmes, improving joint and muscle activity. These, as well as activities during the game, will improve core strength, body movement and balance. The full body workout which a game of football provides is beneficial to all aspects of fitness.
It is important to include some element of strength and weight training to help to avoid injury. Football works your muscles, so use strengthening exercises alongside your football games and training.
For older players with mobility problems, walking football is a popular option, but strength training remains important.