Top 10 Health Benefits of Soccer/Football for Women
As one of the most popular sports among girls in the United States, women’s soccer continues to grow in participation at the youth level. Not only does it offer tremendous health benefits, but it also teaches positive life lessons by instilling a sense of teamwork and collaboration. The skills and fitness that result from playing soccer are a great benefit for girls and women at any age. And now that it is gaining ground at the professional level in America, it is inspiring many women to pick up a ball and hit the field for a good workout.
- Increased Cardiovascular Health: In a 2010 study in Denmark, women who played 14 weeks of soccer improved their cardio fitness by 15 percent. The type of running in intervals in a soccer match are actually better for heart health and weightless than just jogging.
- Increased Muscle Mass: In a 16 week study of twice weekly 1 hour sessions, the average leg muscle mass increase was 11% in women. The number of capillaries per muscle fibre was increased by 18% and the activity of glucose and fat metabolizing enzymes were elevated by 11 and 9%, respectively.
- Increased Bone Density: On average, after the age of 40, women lose bone mass at a rate of .5 to 1% annually. In controlled studies, soccer increased a woman’s bone mineral density by an average of 2 to 3 percent; these gains from soccer translate to reversing bone aging three to six years.
- Lower Body Fat: Women who play soccer lose more body fat than runners because soccer engages both slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers. The perpetual switching between the two during a match cause increased fat burning.
- Improved Coordination: due to shifts between walking, running and sprinting, coordination is developed in soccer. Body coordination is improved through the complex movements like dribbling, turning and passing, which are performed at varying rates of speed and direction. Hand-eye coordination is improved when players either kick the ball or receive a pass from someone.
- Increased Cognitive Brain Function: Soccer helps increase skills in concentration, persistence and self-discipline because it is a fast-paced game that requires quick decisions on the field.
- Increased Social Interaction and Support: Most women cite time constraints as the main reason for not working out. However, being on a team brings women together in a supportive manner and makes them set aside time for physical exercise. Joining a team leads to more commitment and actually following through with fitness and health goals.
- Increase in Overall Health Benefits even if Training Starts in Adulthood: Researchers in Europe recruited more than 70 women ages 20 to 47 who had no history of playing soccer as children or teenagers. Two-thirds of the women were randomly assigned to either a running group or a soccer team. The rest served as a control group. For 14 weeks, the women in the active groups exercised by running or playing soccer for an hour a day just two days a week. The women playing soccer showed improved balance, muscle strength, and bone density.
- Increased Confidence: Building physical strength and endurance helps build confidence in a woman both on and off the field. A confident woman more aptly handles her life and career outside of the field. In several studies, women who feel physically capable in fitness demonstrate greater levels of self-esteem.
- Reduced Stress Levels: Focusing on a game both tactically and physically forces the mind to distract itself for daily stressors. Coupled with endorphins from the physical exertion leads to reduced stress levels in soccer players. Women players in a study said feel more clear-headed after a match.