Rejoice American soccer fans! You now have ‘expert’ proof that soccer is good for your health! We can finally beat obesity in America – just turn on FSC and cheer. Oh wait. I didn’t read far enough… You actually have to PLAY! 🙂

Via This Is American Soccer, we find a recent study that compared the health benefits of jogging or playing soccer and soccer comes out way ahead:

Sports scientist Peter Krustrup and his colleagues from the University of Copenhagen, the Copenhagen University Hospital and Bispebjerg Hospital have followed a soccer team consisting of 14 untrained men aged 20 to 40 years.

For a period of 3 months, the players have been subjected to a number of tests such as fitness ratings, total mass of muscles, percentage of fat, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and balance.

2-3 weekly rounds of soccer practice, of the duration of approximately 1 hour, released massive health and training benefits. Their percentage of fat went down, the total mass of muscle went up, their blood pressure fell and their fitness ratings improved significantly. Everything we tested improved, says Peter Krustrup.

In parallel with the soccer-experiment, the research group did the same tests on a group of joggers as well as on a passive control group. The joggers also trained 2-3 times a week, but their efforts showed smaller effect than that of the soccer players.

It is healthy to run long distances in a moderate speed, but the results show that soccer practise is better in a number of ways. The improvement in fitness rating and the increase in total muscle mass were greater in the soccer players, and during the last 8 weeks of the experiment, only the soccer-players showed any improvement, Peter Krustrup says.

It was interesting that the joggers plateaued in improvement while the soccer players continued to improve after 8 weeks. The article goes on to talk about why soccer might realize such different results.

Soccer is a broader workout than jogging, utilizing jogging, full speed sprints, and physical exertion that can help build muscle. But they also pointed to an interesting aspect of this comparison. Jogging is mind numbingly boring while soccer tends to be fun. Many joggers don’t push themselves as hard as they could because there is no ‘goal’ – they’re just running to some point and most usually aren’t timing themselves. Soccer never stops – you can’t decide to ‘ease up’ and catch your breath. I play pickup one or two times a week and I’ve jogged a lot and the difference is marked. In a pickup match you can grab your knees and gulp air for a few seconds in between plays, but you’re back to a full speed sprint in no time and you’re having fun. I personally never found jogging fun. The study bears this out:

During the process, the participants were asked how hard the practice was, and the feedback makes Peter Krustrup smile. The soccer players expressed that they did not find the practice particularly hard. The joggers always said the opposite.

The joggers always found it hard. Even though they moved at the same average speed as the soccer-players, it was harder on them. I think it is owed to the fact that when you jog you focus on yourself. You notice the efforts and the breathlessness. And then you start to feel a little sorry for your self, says Peter Krustrup and continues:

When you play soccer, you push those thoughts aside. The players are caught up in the game and they don’t notice that their hearts are pounding. It is fun, and the team needs all players to contribute and so they forget that it is hard. That it also happens to be very good exercise is an additional bonus.

So there you have it – yet another reason to love soccer! So find a local pickup game today and start playing! That includes you soccer moms! I really need to setup a regular pickup match for our league’s Soccer Moms in addition to the regular match we have going.