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Recreational soccer is an effective health-promoting activity for untrained men
  1. P Krustrup1,
  2. J J Nielsen1,
  3. B R Krustrup1,
  4. J F Christensen1,
  5. H Pedersen1,
  6. M B Randers1,
  7. P Aagaard2,
  8. A-M Petersen3,
  9. L Nybo1,
  10. J Bangsbo1
  1. 1
    Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences, Section of Human Physiology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  2. 2
    Bispebjerg University Hospital, Denmark
  3. 3
    Rigshospitalet, M-7641, Copenhagen Muscle Research Centre, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to Peter Krustrup, University of Copenhagen, Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences, Copenhagen Muscle Research Centre, The August Krogh Building, Universitetsparken 13, Copenhagen 2100-Ø, Denmark; pkrustrup{at}


To examine the effects of regular participation in recreational soccer on health profile, 36 healthy untrained Danish men aged 20–43 years were randomised into a soccer group (SO; n = 13), a running group (RU; n = 12) and a control group (CO; n = 11). Training was performed for 1 h two or three times per week for 12 weeks; at an average heart rate of 82% (SEM 2%) and 82% (1%) 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 were reduced (p<0.05) from 130 (2) to 122 (2) mm Hg and from 77 (2) to 72 (2) mm Hg, respectively, after 12 weeks, with similar decreases observed for RU. After the 12 weeks 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) mmol/l; 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 23% (4%) and 16% (7%) 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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  • Competing interests None.