Rafed English

Playing football is 'best way' for men to tackle high blood pressure

There was welcome news for footy enthusiasts in the Daily Mail today, as the paper reported that “playing football is the best way for middle-aged men to tackle high blood pressure”

This headline stems from research looking at previously inactive middle-aged men with mild to moderate high blood pressure (above 140/90 mmHg).

The men were split into two groups:

  • the ‘football group’ – where men were asked to play recreational football (for example five-a-side, or similar, rather than an 11 v 11 game on a full size pitch) for one hour twice a week for six months
  • the ‘advice group’ – where men were provided with standard advice from their GP about ways to lower blood pressure levels, such as increasing levels of exercise and eating a healthy diet

While your average Sunday morning game of amateur football is rarely an example of sporting excellence – more a case of the ‘the hapless and the hungover’ – the results were impressive.

Men in the football group had significantly lower blood pressure and increased aerobic fitness when compared to men in the advice group..

The main limitation of this study was its tiny sample size. Just 22 men received the football training, compared to 11 receiving the doctor advice. Also, all of the men were of white Danish ethnic origin.

This increases the possibility of chance results and severely limits how applicable the findings are to other groups, it also does not provide definitive evidence for the beneficial effect of football training on cardiovascular risk factors.

However, it would seem to suggest that regular physical activity, particualry one that imparts a feeling of enjoyment or achievement, is beneficial to overall health.

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