Published on May 30th, 2013 | by James Ayre

Playing Soccer Greatly Improves The Heart Health of Men With Type 2 Diabetes, Research Finds

Soccer training greatly improves the heart function of patients with type 2 diabetes, according to new research from the Copenhagen Centre for Team Sport and Health at the University of Copenhagen. As well as reducing blood pressure and, of course, elevating exercise/physical-exertion capacity.

Image Credit: Soccer Ball via Flickr CC

Image Credit: Soccer Ball via Flickr CC

Not a surprise really, but hopefully the research will lead to more doctors recommending sports and exercise rather than simply prescribing medications.

The research was done by investigating the effects that soccer training/playing had on 21 different men with type 2 diabetes, aged 37-60 years. The training consisted of small-sided games — 5v5.

“We discovered that soccer training significantly improved the flexibility of the heart and furthermore, that the cardiac muscle tissue was able to work 29% faster. This means that after three months of training, the heart had become 10 years ‘younger’,” explains Medical Doctor, PhD Student, Jakob Friis Schmidt, who co-authored the study alongside with PhD student, Thomas Rostgaard Andersen. “Many type 2 diabetes patients have less flexible heart muscles which is often one of the first signs of diabetes’ effect on cardiac function, increasing the risk of heart failure.”

Utilizing advanced ultrasound scanning of the heart, the researchers also found that “the heart’s contraction phase was improved and that the capacity of the heart to shorten was improved by 23% — a research result that had not (yet) been reported with other types of physical activity.”

Before the study began, 60% of the study participants had high blood pressure, and were on blood pressure reducing medications. The training “reduced the systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 8 mmHg, which is greater than the achievements of prior training studies.” That means that the training was as effective as the administration of high blood pressure medication. And obviously without the negative side effects, and with a variety of other “positive” side effects.

The research also found that the study participants’ “maximal oxygen uptake was increased by 12% and that their intermittent exercise capacity was elevated by 42%.”

“An improved physical condition reduces the risk for other illnesses associated with type 2 diabetes and makes it easier to get along with daily tasks and maintain a physically active life” says Thomas Rostgaard.

Professor Jens Bangsbo, head of the Copenhagen Centre for Team Sport and Health at the University of Copenhagen, adds that, “The results of the study, coupled with participants’ interest in continuing to play after the study, show that soccer has a great potential to help diabetic patients. This does not only gain the patients, but also contribute socio-economically.”

Of course none of this is a surprise, but its good to hear that the medical community is researching such things rather than simply developing endlessly new (profitable) variants of prescription medications. Exercise/physical activity (along with a nutritious diet) has a considerably more positive influence on a person’s health than medications ever will — even leading to large changes in genetic expression, similar to what occurs with changes in diet.

The new research was recently published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise.

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About the Author

‘s background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

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