Play Soccer for Your Heart

Next time you watch a Sounders match, you might want to take notes for your workout. Sprinting, jogging, and walking—not necessarily in that order—can make your heart healthier.

The most popular sport in the world is also among the best medicine against lifestyle disease, according to a 2018 article in the British Journal of Medicine.

Soccer players had a resting heart rate of about 6 beats slower per minute than the heart rates of inactive people, according to a study. Resting heart rate of between 60 and 100 beats per minute is considered healthy. The lower end is a sign your heart isn’t working too hard to pump blood around the body. It’s also a sign of cardiovascular fitness. A fast heart rate increases risk of heart failure and blood clots.

You don’t have to be a Sounder playing the full 90 to get the cardio benefit. Compared to inactive people, even recreational players have lower resting heart rates. Additionally, body weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure are lower.

The sport combines endurance, high-intensity interval training, and strength training.

Just think about how you could incorporate soccer-style running into your workout. Sprint for a minute on the treadmill, then take it down to a jog, then walk it out for a bit and repeat. Soccer pitches are flat, but adding some hill work will also help your heart.

Soccer is a simple game with simple rules and the equipment is pretty cheap. It’s also adjustable. Little kids can play. Senior citizens can play. Just look for teammates and opponents at your level.

It’s also a social activity, so it provides motivation to get out there and get active. Study participants rated soccer as providing high levels of enjoyment, moderate levels of exertion and that it had positive effects on mental and social well-being. All good things!

 

Avoiding injuries

Leg injuries are common in soccer players of all levels. Most common are ankle sprains. Knee injuries are common as are muscle injuries of the thigh and calf. Causes include overuse of muscles. Running and turning quickly can lead to injury. Contact injuries as the result of foul play are also common. For safety, join a low-key recreational league or find a pick-up game with casual players.

To prevent injury

  • Warm up and stretch before the game
  • Cool down and stretch after the game
  • Give yourself a rest day or two after the game. Ice, heat, or elevate any injuries.
  • Use protective equipment
  • Follow the rules and avoid contact with other players
  • Report unsafe playing field conditions
  • Train adequately in the off-season to be properly conditioned for game day
  • Wear ankle or knee braces to prevent sprains

Candace Nelson

In the mountains or water debate, Candace Nelson chooses water every time. She is a Master of Science in Nutrition student and loves taking any fitness class that makes her forget she's working out. Read more at candacenelson.net