Football is good for heart and blood pressure

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Football is good for heart and blood pressure

Regularly playing football may be even more helpful for lowering your blood pressure and looking after your heart than going for a run, Danish research suggests.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen wanted to discover if short bursts of intense cardiovascular activity (such as sprinting and resting during a game of football) were better for you than sustained periods of more moderate activity (such as going for a long run). To do this, they studied three groups of men who had high blood pressure and who were regularly active over a 3-month period:

- one group were asked to play football for one hour roughly 2.5 times a week (the footballers)

- another group were asked to go for a one-hour run roughly 2.5 times a week (the runners)

- the final group were asked to continue to exercise as they normally did (the controls).

At the end of 12 weeks, it was found that all forms of exercise helped to lower blood pressure, but that both playing football or running for roughly 2.5 hours a week produced more dramatic reductions blood pressure, body weight and body fat levels than just being regularly active. In fact, football appeared to reduce diastolic blood pressure by 9mmHg, compared with a reduction of just 4mmHg in the control group.

Football also seemed to offer an extra benefit over both running and being regularly active by lowering cholesterol levels. Men who ran or kept active had no change in their cholesterol levels after 12 weeks, but the footballers had a reduction of 0.3 (from 5.8 to 5.5).

The researchers conclude that a high-intensity sport such as football is just as helpful as a moderate-intensity activity such as running at lowering blood pressure and may be even more helpful for the heart by changing the amount of cholesterol in the blood.

Source: Knoepfli-Lenzin C, Sennhauser C, Toigo M et al. Effects of a 12-week intervention period with football and running for habitually active men with mild hypertension. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. Published online on 2 February 2010. doi 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.01089.

Topics: Research, Lifestyle, High blood pressure

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