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Football is medicine: it is time for patients to play!
  1. Peter Krustrup1,2,3,
  2. Birgitte R Krustrup4,5
  1. 1 Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, SDU Sport and Health Sciences Cluster (SHSC), Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark
  2. 2 Sport and Health Sciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
  3. 3 Department of Sports Science, Shanghai University of Sport, Shanghai, China
  4. 4 DBU Zealand, Roskilde, Denmark
  5. 5 Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports (NEXS), University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to Professor Peter Krustrup, Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southern Denmark, Odense 5230, Denmark; pkrustrup{at}

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In 2006, the recognised Nordic exercise physiologists Professors Pedersen and Saltin provided powerful evidence that exercise was an effective therapy in chronic disease—they emphasised exercise as a cornerstone in the prevention and non-pharmacological treatment of lifestyle diseases.1 Shortly after, American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)’s president Dr Sallis delivered his well-documented and strong statement that ‘exercise is medicine and physicians need to prescribe it!’.2 These statements, and the research on which they are based, have influenced health authorities and governments around the globe to include exercise recommendations in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases. Prominent worldwide exercise guidelines, including those from the WHO and ACSM, encourage sedentary individuals and patients to engage in exercise activities like brisk walking, jogging, cycling and fitness centre training. However, within physical activity guidelines, less emphasis has been placed on the health benefits of sporting activities.

Is there evidence that sport provides health benefits? 

In a 2012 Lancet review, it was concluded that ‘sport may contribute to the health of nations’.3 A subsequent meta-analysis published in 2015 concluded that, in terms of health effects of sport, ‘the best evidence was found for football and running’, and that ‘evidence for health benefits of other sport disciplines was either inconclusive or tenuous’.4 Since then, high-quality research has emphasised the preventive effects of several ball games for sedentary adults, and we report that the evidence for the health benefits of football (soccer) is even stronger.5–10 More than 150 peer-reviewed articles published …

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