Kick a Ball to Kick Aging?

Danish researchers are reporting a way to age better that involves only two pieces of low-tech equipment: sneakers and a soccer ball.

According to a press release from the University of Copenhagen about a test group of men aged 63 to 75 , “After only 4 months of twice-weekly 1-hour training sessions, the men achieved marked improvements in maximum oxygen uptake, muscle function and bone mineralization.”

But looking a little deeper, they split 26 men into three groups, so that means this result is based on nine people who played soccer versus nine who performed strength training and eight who were inactive.

Although we have no doubt that soccer can be good for the heart and lungs, based on that small sample set and relatively brief exposure, we are extremely skeptical about the game’s effect on the joints of older soccer players.

The answer may be, as it so often is, all things in moderation. An earlier study from Cork University Hospital in Ireland advised: “Animal and human studies have shown no evidence of increased risk of hip or knee OA [osteoarthritis] with moderate exercise and in the absence of traumatic injury, sporting activity has a protective effect…However, higher rates of hip OA occur in contact sports than in age-matched controls, with the highest rate in professional players. Soccer players with torn anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) are more likely to develop knee OA than those with intact ACL.”

We suggest proceeding at your own risk. In a description that would please only Tony Soprano, one former player described soccer as: “A sport where you can’t be afraid to break someone’s shin.”



We’ll stick to Yoga, thanks.