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The Health Benefits of Playing Soccer

by Rob Kelly-editor of Soccer Coach Canada

Playing soccer greatly reduces the chance of becoming overweight or obese, and reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In addition, youth players also develop stronger muscles, stronger bones, and improved coordination. Soccer also develops social skills, teamwork, communication skills, self-esteem and exercises the brain.

Great Cardio Workout: Soccer players can travel a distance of eight to twelve kilometres each game. The constant walking, jogging and running helps keep the players’ heart rates up, providing excellent cardiovascular exercise. The cardio workout helps players strengthen their hearts, resist plaque build-up in the coronary arteries, reduce their blood pressure and burn excess calories. The goalkeeper receives a cardio workout as well by moving within the goal crease. Additionally, keepers often train as hard as the field players during practice. In a 2010 study in Denmark, women who played 14 weeks of soccer improved their cardio fitness by 15 percent.

Lowers Body Fat and Improves Muscle Tone: Soccer is a great sport for burning fat because it works the muscles and your heart in different ways. Soccer builds more muscle mass and burns more fat by recruiting both slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers. As a general workout, soccer playing burns more calories than typical workouts because players are forced to switch between using the aerobic and anaerobic energy pathways.

Builds Muscle Strength: Lower body strength is required for kicking, jumping, tackling, twisting and turning and also forms the foundation for explosive speed. Upper body strength is required for shielding the ball, holding off opponents, throw-ins and also contributes to overall power and explosiveness. Regular soccer playing builds strength by using the whole body.

Increases Bone Strength: In general, bone density decreases as people get older. The repeated weight-bearing loads on the body during a soccer match are an excellent way to increase the strength of our skeletal frame. Maintaining fitness through soccer throughout a lifetime is a great way to keep bones strong.

Improves Coordination: Hand-eye coordination is improved when players either kick the ball or receive a pass from someone. Body coordination is improved because of complex movements like dribbling, turning and passing, which are performed at varying rates of speed and direction. Better coordination means better results on the field.

Teaches Teamwork: The ability to work with others to reach a common goal is powerful when related to everyday life. For soccer players, personal goals are often pushed aside by team goals, which can teach kids to think in broader terms when relating these situations to school and home.

Cognitive Benefits: In addition to the physical benefits, playing soccer is good for your brain. Soccer can be a fast-paced game that exercises your mind by requiring quick decisions on the field. Even when the tempo appears to slow down, players are constantly looking for territorial advantages, trying to position themselves to receive a pass or to defend an area the opponent may attack. To many, playing soccer is much like a more active chess game, with the best competitors always thinking several steps ahead.

Increases Confidence and Self-esteem, and Helps to Reduce Anxiety: Building physical strength and endurance helps build confidence in a player both on and off the field. Confidence and self-esteem not only impact sports performance, but also performance in school, career, family life and friendships. Also, as with all forms of exercise, the feel-good endorphins released into the body after a match are major stress and anxiety reducers. Several studies point to exercise as being a highly effective treatment for depression and anxiety.

Sources: Best Health Magazine, Health Fitness Revolution, Coach-up