How football can improve your fitness
Tue 24 September 2019
We Make Footballers News
Not only is football great fun to play, but it can also have huge benefits for your health and fitness. A 2015 study by the University of Copenhagen showed that 12 weeks of football training can increase the amount of oxygen that our bodies can process by 10 to 15 percent and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases by 50 percent.
Football is so effective because it uses so many different systems within the body. Over the course of a training session or game, a player can expect to use their aerobic and anaerobic energy systems and various muscles and bones across the body, as well as their minds.
Here’s how football can improve your fitness.
Aerobic exercise is where the oxygen that you breathe is carried to your muscles via the lungs, heart and blood system to supply them with the energy they need to carry out the required task. This sort of exercise is therefore associated with low intensity activity, which in football involves jogging or walking.
In the average game, a player will spend 37 percent of their time jogging and 25 percent of it walking. Those numbers tell you why the sport is so good for improving aerobic fitness.
Sometimes, the body’s aerobic systems can’t deliver energy quickly enough to the muscles in order to keep them operating. That’s the case when you take part in high intensity activity such as sprinting.
When this happens, your body turns to its anaerobic energy systems. These can give you a boost of energy in short, sharp bursts but very quickly become depleted, at which point they need replenishing. This is known as oxygen debt, as your body works hard to replace the oxygen it burned during that intense period of exercise.
Around one third of a game of football is spent sprinting or running at high intensity, which means it provides an excellent anaerobic workout. The more anaerobic exercise you do, the greater your body’s capacity to work in that way becomes, meaning you are able to sprint and work harder for longer, which makes you fitter in the long run.
Strength and agility
Because a footballer has to use their entire body during a game or weekly training session, it provides an excellent full body workout for muscles and bones. This can lead to big improvements in a person’s strength and agility levels.
Take the upper body for example. Taking a throw in works on arm and back strength. Leaping for a header improves upper body muscles, as does holding off an opponent who is trying to knock you off the ball. A lot of movements performed by players in the game also require strong core strength.
Core stability improves through this newfound strength while making quick turns and changes of direction has a profound impact on agility.
As for the lower body, the benefits should be obvious. The entire leg receives a thorough workout when playing football, starting from the ankle right up through the leg, including the calves, quads, hamstrings and glutes, which are all more improved the more you play.
As with all exercise, football can help you lose weight through burning off calories. According to Harvard Health, an individual who weighs 155 pounds can burn up to 780 calories during a 90-minute match.
Anaerobic respiration uses fat in its oxygenation process while aerobic takes carbohydrates. Because football relies so heavily on those two forms of exercise, you can either start to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight when you combine playing with a healthy diet.
Football isn’t all just running and kicking – it requires a lot of thought as well. Players are constantly analysing what is happening on the pitch in order to decide where they need to move to next.
Decisions are made all the time, whether it be to shoot or pass. Do you try and dribble out of trouble or just get the ball clear? Stand a man up or put in a tackle? So much of the game takes place in your head and you may not even realise it. This makes it a good workout for your mind.
Then there is the social aspect of the sport. Being part of a team requires communication and focusing on what is best for the collective, while being successful will boost your confidence and self-esteem.