Exercise is of course an essential component for healthy living and cardiovascular sustainability; however, working out can be a bit off-putting since heading to the gym and running on the treadmill doesn’t sound like the most exciting activity. Sports, on the other hand, provide a fun and challenging way to get some exercise and stay excited – especially soccer. Being out on field with a little friendly competition can keep your mind just as stimulated as your body and help you burn calories without even noticing. More importantly, you can do it anytime, anywhere – open space and a soccer ball are all you’ll need.
Soccer, or Futbol, is already the premiere sport across Europe and South America; that same popularity is finding its way across North America as well, thanks to community-building events like the FIFA World Cup. And since this is one of the only sports in which you’re constantly moving, Soccer’s health benefits are endless. Take a look at some of the exciting benefits of soccer below:
Improves Your Heart
Out on the soccer field you are constantly in a state of walking, jogging, or running, often escalating into sprinting. In fact, the average soccer player runs 5-7 miles per game. Constantly moving in this manner keeps your heart rate up and pumps blood throughout your body. The increased heart rate provides a solid exercise for your cardiovascular muscles and helps clean plaque out of your arteries. Built up plaque is the leading cause of strokes and heart failure; in other words, this type of cardiovascular exercise is essential.
Improves Your Lungs
If you’re out running 5-7 miles in a single match, you know there’s going to be a constant influx of oxygen in your system. During aerobic activity, you are constantly moving large muscles in your arms, legs, and hips, leading to deeper breathing which maximizes oxygen levels in your blood. Soccer is the perfect sport to increase your aerobic capacity and stimulate your lungs. Capillaries widen to deliver more oxygen to your body and carry out waste products at rapid speeds. You’ll even release endorphins, which are natural painkillers that provide a state of elation – often referred to as the “runner’s high.”
Before you increase oxygen intake and muscle capacity though, you want to make sure you stretch and ready those muscles. As Injinji’s Loose Limbs: How Stretching Impacts Your Body states, “Stretching releases tense muscles and wakes up your body’s range of motion.” Be sure to prepare your body for soccer’s high-intensity to avoid unwanted pulling and tearing.
The natural flow of soccer forces you to concentrate and improve your body’s movements in relation to the ball. An article on Best Health Mag quotes kinesiologist, Sean Hayes stating, “Hand-eye coordination is improved when players either kick the ball or receive a pass from someone… Body coordination is improved because of complex movements like dribbling, turning and passing, which are performed at varying rates of speed and direction.” The natural ball-handling movements of the game force you to focus and train your body to adjust and perform in a certain way. This increased focus improves your body’s overall relation to objects in the world around it, benefitting you in daily activities such as driving and bike riding.
Improves Cognitive Brain Response
Soccer, like many sports, requires a high level of concentration. But unlike many sports, you have to keep this level of concentration for a long period of time, and through a consistent level of physical activity. To be consistently aware is to improve your mind’s functionality and natural sensory responses. For instance, in soccer you need to be aware of where the ball is while thinking five steps ahead of who to pass it to and how to get it closer to the goal. This is a level of problem solving that greatly improves cognitive development.
Soccer is a healthy stimulant, both physically and mentally. It’s a sport that requires you to move and focus for long periods of time which has a hugely positive impact on your body’s capabilities, as well as your life-long health. So what are you waiting for? Grab a ball, find an open space, and start scoring goals for greater health.