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Kick Up Your Workout

Play soccer for fitness

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Kick Up Your Workout

Is your fitness program getting stale? You may want to try your foot at soccer. Soccer execises are great for your health and its benefits are second to none.

Is your fitness program getting stale? Is running along the same route getting too predictable? Is it becoming tedious to drag yourself to the gym every day to meet your fitness goals? You may want to try your foot at soccer.

In a recent study on the fitness of soccer players, Peter Krustrup and his colleagues from the University of Copenhagen compared new soccer players and new joggers. Reported in Science Daily (2007), the study shows that soccer players lost more fat and gained more muscle mass than the joggers.

Joggers rely mostly on slow-twitch muscle fibres as they run at a moderate pace. Soccer players, by contrast, use both fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibres, as the pace of the game requires both intense and moderate work.

Soccer is Good Exercise

Soccer mimics interval training for the cardiovascular system. Interval training involves intense bursts of exercise for a short period followed by a longer period of recovery. Soccer players repeat this continuously following the intensity of the game, in practice, and during drills.

Exercise physiologist Elizabeth Quinn outlines the benefits of interval training, which include:

  • Building of new capillaries to take in and deliver oxygen to the working muscles
  • Developing higher tolerance to the buildup of lactate in muscles
  • Strengthening the heart muscle
  • Burning more calories
  • Enhancing athletic performance

In the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2002), researchers measuring the heart rates of people involved in soccer drills such as dribbling reported that the drills correspond to interval training, and players reap the benefits.

Soccer is Fun

Soccer is the world’s most popular game for good reason. All one needs to play is a field, a ball, a couple of poles to serve as goals, and a place to enjoy a cool beverage afterwards.

The fun factor is important from the fitness perspective. Rather than worrying about the effectiveness of the workout, players concentrate on the competition of going head to head with the opposing team. There is also a team dynamic as the team expects each player to make a contribution. The exercise value is beside the point.

The intense part of the workout happens when you find yourself sprinting toward the goal. You show some fancy footwork and deke one defender and make a picture perfect pass to a striker on your right. He, in turn, passes it right back to you and you flick it straight into the net.

The recovery part of the interval occurs when you do a victory lap after the goal. You don’t pay attention to your heart that’s pounding or your lungs that are ready to climb out of your chest. You just recover and think about setting up the next play.

Soccer is Everywhere

You may wonder where you can go to take part in all this fitness. There are teams and leagues across the country that would be happy to have you join. There are both amateur and professional leagues where competition is serious, and recreational leagues where competition is more for the fun of it.

All ages and all levels of fitness can play. There are leagues for toddlers to seniors. Luckily, they are not hard to find. There are provincial organizations eager to conscript you. Many community centres have drop-in indoor and outdoor soccer at a more recreational level.

To play on a team, practise to develop skills. The drills used to develop skills count as intervals as well, so you can’t lose. If you’re serious about “bending it like Beckham,” go to the practices and get back to the gym.

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