Older women with prediabetes benefit from football training, study shows

Football can be an effective form of medicine for older women with prediabetes, a new study shows.

A Danish research team has found that sessions of football led to a significant improvement in cardiovascular health after just 16 weeks of training.

The trial involved both men and women with prediabetes aged between 55 and 70. The groups of men and women were each randomised into one of two interventions. One group, for each sex, was assigned to receive dietary advice and two one-hour sessions of football each week, over the 16 weeks of the trial. The other group received the same dietary advice but no football sessions.

The results showed that the people in the football groups experienced improvement in blood pressure, cholesterol levels and aerobic fitness. Similar improvements were found for both men and women, with the researchers highlighting that football can be just as effective in women as in men.

Prof Peter Krustrup, from the University of Southern Denmark Faculty of Health Sciences, said: “More than 15 years of research on recreational football documents that it is indeed an effective and multifaceted type of training with a potential for simultaneous broad-spectrum improvements in cardiovascular, metabolic and musculoskeletal fitness.”

While there have been at least 31 studies into the health benefits of football, few of them have investigated the health effects of football in women.

Prof Magni Mohr added: “Interestingly, the exercise intensity as well as the training effects were similar in women and men, and for aerobic fitness the improvements were even greater in women.

“This clearly emphasizes that middle-aged and elderly women can benefit to the same degree as men, even so women with no prior experience with football.

“The results from our study confirm investigations of other patient groups and emphasise that football training is an intense, effective and versatile type of training. Football scores a true health hat-trick as training type for participants of both genders and across the lifespan.”

The study is published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.

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