Thursday, June 12, 2014

SuppVersity World Cup Special: What Football Can Do For Your Health & Performance Now & As You Age - It's Better for Heart & Bones (!) Than Lifting

Soccer! For Young & Old, Heart & Bones, Blood Sugar & Body Fat Now & Beyond World Cup 2012
Ok, I have to admit, in spite of the fact that the World Cup starts today, I wouldn't have produced this article, if the editor(s) of the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports didn't have a similar idea and I wouldn't have "early view" access to a bunch of soon-to-be-published on the beneficial and not so beneficial effects of what I call "football" and most of you call "soccer".

But enough of the prelude, let's take a look at what I have to report, here: Schmidt et al. present the amazing cardiovascular adaptations they observed in response to 4 and 12 months of football or strength training in 65- to 75-year-old untrained men.
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The study was conducted at the Copenhagen Centre for Team Sport and Health of the University of Copenhagen and involved, as you would have guessed, 26 untrained men (age: 68.2 ± 3.2 years). The guys were randomized to football training (FTG; n = 9), strength training (STG; n = 9), or control (CG; n = 8).

Football (soccer), older hearts will love it!

Maximum oxygen consumption (VO2max; L/min) and resting heart rate (RHR; bpm) in elderly healthy 65- to 75-yearold men at baseline, after 4 & 12 months of football training (FTG), strength training (STG), and control (CG) - Schmidt. 2014
Aside from the impressive improvements in VO2max (vs. no improvement in either the strength training or the control group; see Figure 1), the researchers observed the following beneficial structural changes of the heart:
  • increases in left ventricular diastolic diameter +8%
  • increases in end-diastolic volume +21%
  • increases in ventricular mass index +18%
Unlike the improvements in ejection fraction (+8% in FTG vs. +5% in STG), these changes were "football"-exclusive.The systolic longitudinal two-dimensional strain increased by 8% (FTG) and 6% (STG), whereas the right ventricular systolic function improved (P < 0.05) by 22% in FTG, but not in STG and CG.

In conjunction with the football-exclusive increases in diastolic mitral inflow (E/A) ratio and peak early diastolic velocity (E') improved (25% and 12%, respectively), your 3x1h of training may thus be better spend on football than on resistance training if your main goal is to improve your VO2max and kick heart disease's ass.

If we look at the benefits the older guys in the Schmidt study derived from their soccer training it can hardly be surprising that Anderson et al. (2014a) report similarly "hearty" benefits in 31 untrained males with mild-to-moderate hypertension who were randomized 2:1 to a football training group (n = 20) and a control group receiving traditional recommendations on healthy lifestyle (n = 11).

While the football group exhibited significant (P < 0.05) changes in cardiac dimensions and function after just 3 months similar to those in the Schmidt study, as well as significant reduction in arterial blood pressure, the results in the "traditional take this *bs* advice" group were mediocre tat best. Consequently, the researchers conclude that even in the short term (3-6 months)...
"football training improves LV diastolic function in untrained men with mild-to-moderate arterial hypertension [and] improve longitudinal systolic function of both ventricles." (Anderson. 2014a)
 Now, SuppVersity readers are not generally hypertensive, and I am gathering that the few highly appreciated "best agers" in my readership are also in the minority. Against that background it's worth mentioning that the heart is not the only part of your body that will benefit from soccer practices - your bones will, too. Ok, I see you laughin' cause you're hittin' the weights, regularly, but what would you say if I told you that ...
"4 months of recreational football for elderly men had an osteogenic effect, which was further developed after 12 months, whereas resistance training had no effect."  (Helge. 2014)
I see, I've got your attention, now! Well, the authors, again researchers from the Copenhagen Centre for Team Sport and Health speculate that the anabolic response may be due to increased bone turnover, especially improved bone formation which was obviously promoted to a greater extent in those 9 of the initially 26 healthy sedentary men (age 68.2 ± 3.2 years) who had been randomized to the  football (F; n = 9) and not the resistance training (R; n = 9) group - and that despite the fact that both trained two to three times weekly for a total of 45–60 min training.
Playing soccer is good for your health, watching it... well, watching it can increase your risk of being hospitalized for acute myocardial infarction minimally (+1%; cf. Barone-Adesi. 2010), unless, of course, your team wins! During the 1998 World Cup, which was won by France, the myocardial infarction risk of French men was actually reduced by 35% (Berthier. 2003)
When it comes to improving the functional ability and physiological response to submaximal exercise, in older men, however, it's difficult to pinpoint a difference between three football and three resistance training sessions per week. Unsurprisingly, study #4 in today's review did yet report that only football trainign "additionally elevates maximal aerobic fitness and exhaustive exercise performance." (Anderson. 2014b).

What's left to discuss, oh yes! Anderson. 2014c and the effects on glucose management!

Yeah, with 21 middle-aged men (49.8 ± 1.7 years ± SEM) with T2DM as subjects, this study will certainly appeal to all the Average Joes out who unfortunately don't get their daily dose of SuppVersity wisdom, yet (Anderson. 2014c).

The said middle-aged subjects were divided into a football training group (FG; n = 12) and an inactive control group (CG; n = 9) - the absence of a strength training "control" is a pity... but alas, after the 24-week intervention period, in the course of which the sick guys covered only During 4.7 ± 0.2 km at a mean heart reate of 83 ± 2% of HRmax per 1h soccer training, they experienced a 11% increase in VO2peak and lost 1.7 kg and 12.8% of their total fat and android fat, respectively.

Against that background it's not that surprising that Anderson et al. report concomitant improvements in plasma glucose and an increased expression of the glucose transporters (GLUT-4). Most importantly, however, the Danish researchers did also observe an overall time effect for glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1) and thus significant and continuous improvements in glucose management in the soccer group.
Bottom line: "There you have it" ... that's actually something my good friend Carl Lanore from www.superhumanradio.com like to say. There you have the benefits of playing soccer. Improved heart health, fat loss and reductions in blood glucose in type II diabetes are probably nothing, you wouldn't have expected, anyways, right?

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Well, what about the benefits on bone health, then? I personally was surprised that the impact of soccer training was more pronounced than the one of strength training. In the end, I would yet expect equal results if the latter, i.e. the strength training had included free-weight squats and/or deadlifts. Those and not sissy curls and lat pulldowns are true bone builders, but honestly - when I see some of the 60+ agers at my gym do them I think to myself: You better leave that to true physical culturists, like my previously mentioned friend Carl Lanore (www.superhumanradio.com) and head over to the soccer training, folks ;-)
References:
  • Andersen, L. J., Randers, M. B., Hansen, P. R., Hornstrup, T., Schmidt, J. F., Dvorak, J., Søgaard, P., Krustrup, P. and Bangsbo, J. (2014a), Structural and functional cardiac adaptations to 6 months of football training in untrained hypertensive men. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. doi: 10.1111/sms.12237 
  • Andersen, T. R., Schmidt, J. F., Nielsen, J. J., Randers, M. B., Sundstrup, E., Jakobsen, M. D., Andersen, L. L., Suetta, C., Aagaard, P., Bangsbo, J. and Krustrup, P. (2014b), Effect of football or strength training on functional ability and physical performance in untrained old men. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. doi: 10.1111/sms.12245
  • Andersen, T. R., Schmidt, J. F., Thomassen, M., Hornstrup, T., Frandsen, U., Randers, M. B., Hansen, P. R., Krustrup, P. and Bangsbo, J. (2014b), A preliminary study: Effects of football training on glucose control, body composition, and performance in men with type 2 diabetes. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. doi: 10.1111/sms.12259
  • Barene, Svein, et al. "Soccer and Zumba as health-promoting activities among female hospital employees: a 40-weeks cluster randomised intervention study." Journal of sports sciences ahead-of-print (2014): 1-11. 
  • Barone-Adesi, Francesco, et al. "It is just a game: lack of association between watching football matches and the risk of acute cardiovascular events." International journal of epidemiology 39.4 (2010): 1006-1013.
  • Berthier, Fabrice, and Frédéric Boulay. "Lower myocardial infarction mortality in French men the day France won the 1998 World Cup of football." Heart 89.5 (2003): 555-556.
  • Helge, E. W., Andersen, T. R., Schmidt, J. F., Jørgensen, N. R., Hornstrup, T., Krustrup, P. and Bangsbo, J. (2014), Recreational football improves bone mineral density and bone turnover marker profile in elderly men. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. doi: 10.1111/sms.12239.
  • Ramírez-Campillo, Rodrigo, et al. "Effects of In-Season Low-Volume High-Intensity Plyometric Training on Explosive Actions and Endurance of Young Soccer Players." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 28.5 (2014): 1335-1342.
  • Schmidt, J. F., Hansen, P. R., Andersen, T. R., Andersen, L. J., Hornstrup, T., Krustrup, P. and Bangsbo, J. (2014), Cardiovascular adaptations to 4 and 12 months of football or strength training in 65- to 75-year-old untrained men. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. doi: 10.1111/sms.12217