A group of European scientists have written men with hypertension an odd prescription: play soccer. (Sorry, purists, you call it football.) In a new study, researchers call it the best way for men with hypertension to get their blood pressure under control and be more fit.
"Playing soccer scores a hat trick for men with hypertension: It reduces blood pressure, improves fitness and burns fat," lead researcher Peter Krustrup of the University of Exeter, said in a release.
In the study, 33 men between the ages of 33 and 54 with mild to moderate hypertension were divided into two groups. In one, the men participated in two hour-long soccer training sessions each week. The others received typical care from a GP, which included the usual speech about how important it is to eat healthy and be active. Researchers monitored the men's physical states after three months and six months.
Just how effective was the beautiful game when it comes to fighting hypertension? Men in the soccer group saw their blood pressure reduced by twice as much as men in the other group. Men put onto the pitch also saw a broad range of health benefits: maximal oxygen uptake raised by 10 per cent, body fat mass lowered by an average of 2 kilograms and resting heart rate dropped by eight beats per minute.
And the control group? Researchers saw no significant improvements in any of these areas in them.
Nearly one-fifth of Canada's adult population has hypertension, while a further 20 per cent has what's known as pre-hypertension, so it might be time to trade in your skates for a pair of cleats.
Maybe Euro science needs to look at hockey, too, especially since it's hard to believe there's anything all that unique about footie compared to other high-intensity cardiovascular activities that makes it some blood-pressure-reducing wonder sport. But it seems safe to say there is a strong link between soccer and fighting high blood pressure.
"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," prof. Krustrup said.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Universities of Exeter and Copenhagen and Gentofte Univesity Hospital in Denmark, was published in the Journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.