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16-10-2012 | Cardiology | Article

Soccer scores hat-trick for hypertensive men


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medwireNews: Soccer training can significantly reduce blood pressure (BP) and improve aerobic fitness in hypertensive middle-aged men, researchers say.

Peter Kustrup (University of Exeter, UK) and colleagues report that 6 months of soccer training prevents cardiovascular disease in middle-aged men (31-54 years) with hypertension and is more effective than advice given by general practitioners on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

"Playing soccer scores a hat trick for men with hypertension," commented Kustrup in a press statement. "It reduces BP, improves fitness, and burns fat."

Kustrup and team found that, during training, the average heart rate of men randomly assigned to the soccer training group rose to 155 beats per minute. Their systolic and diastolic BP decreased over 6 months of two hour-long soccer training sessions per week from 151 to 139 mmHg, and from 92 to 84 mmHg, respectively.

There were smaller decreases in systolic and diastolic BP among men who were randomly assigned to receive healthy lifestyle advice from a doctor, from 153 to 145 mmHg and 96 to 93 mmHg, respectively. These men received traditional physician-guided recommendations on how to modify their cardiovascular risk.

As reported in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, in the soccer group, maximal aerobic capacity increased from 32.6 to 35.4 mL/min per kilogramme. Relative oxygen uptake during cycling at 100 Watts was lowered from 55% to 50% of maximal oxygen uptake over 6 months, with no changes in either of these outcomes seen in the group who received lifestyle advice.

Moreover, resting heart rate was lowered by 8 beats per minute and the augmentation index - a measure of arterial stiffness - by 7.3 over 6 months, with no changes observed in the lifestyle advice group.

"Playing football made it easier for previously untrained men to train even harder, and also make it easier for them to cope with everyday life activities such as cycling, walking upstairs, shopping, and lawn mowing," remarked Kustrup.

Co-author Peter Hansen (Gentofte University Hospital, Denmark) added: "Our results are very exciting and we are now trying to understand the findings in more depth, for example by investigating the effects of playing football on the heart's structure and function."

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Piriya Mahendra, medwireNews Reporter

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