To examine the effects of regular participation in recreational soccer on health profile, 38 healthy untrained Danish males aged 20-43 years were randomised into a soccer group (SO; n=14), a running group (RU; n=13) and a control group (CO; n=11). Training was performed for one hour two-three times per week for 12 weeks; at an average heart rate of 82±2 and 82±1% (±SEM) of HRmax for SO and RU, respectively. During the 12-week period, maximal oxygen uptake increased (P<0.05) by 13±3% and 8±3% in SO and RU, respectively. In SO, systolic and diastolic blood pressure was reduced (P<0.05) from 132±2 to 123±3 mmHg and from 77±2 to 72±2 mmHg, respectively, after 12 weeks, with similar decreases observed for RU. After the 12 wks of training, fat mass was 3.0% (2.7±0.6 kg) and 1.8% (1.8±0.4 kg) lower (P<0.05) for SO and RU, respectively. Only SO had an increase in lean body mass (1.7±0.4 kg, P<0.05), an increase in lower extremity bone mass (41±8 g, P<0.05), a decrease in LDL-cholesterol (2.7±0.2 to 2.3±0.2 mM; P<0.05) and an increase (P<0.05) in fat oxidation during running at 9.5 km/h. The number of capillaries per muscle fibre was 22±4% and 16±6% higher (P<0.05) in SO and RU, respectively, after 12 weeks. No changes in any of the measured variables were observed for CO. In conclusion, participation in regular recreational soccer training, organised as small-sided drills, has significant beneficial effects on health profile and physical capacity for untrained men, and in some aspects it is superior to frequent moderate intensity running.
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