Here’s a tidbit that we’re sure football fans will all get hooked on. Yes, it’s time to play healthy. A recent research experiment on inactive men with high blood pressure suggests that playing soccer for about 3 months can cause a significant drop in blood pressure twice a week.

In addition, research also found that resting heart rate and body fat percentage decreased. It was also found to appear to be more effective than the usual doctor’s advice on healthy eating and exercise. In further parallel experiments on men and women, the scientists showed that regular football play also influences numerous cardiovascular risk factors.

These included maximum oxygen uptake, cardiac function, elasticity of the vascular system, blood pressure, cholesterol and fat mass. It was apparently far more than activities like maybe weight training and as much, if not more, than running. These controlled randomized experiments compared the soccer groups with other exercise groups and inactive controls.

The soccer experiments are known to be part of a large-scale research project on soccer and health University of Copenhagen, four Danish university hospitals, the Federal Institute of Technology and the Schulthess Clinic in Zurich. They suggested that while playing soccer, untrained children, teens, adults, and the elderly kept their heart rates high and performed several intense actions such as sprints, turns, kicks, and tackles.

“Our research shows that soccer is a versatile, intense form of exercise that has positive effects on cardiovascular risk factors in a large group of untrained adult men and women,” noted Project leader and associate professor at the University of Copenhagen Peter Krustrup. “Based on the results, soccer can be recommended as part of the treatment of high blood pressure and as a broad-based prevention of cardiovascular disease.”

“Our analyzes have also shown that the pulse rate and the activity profile are the same in small-court games where only 4, 6, 8 or 14 people play. In other words, it’s very easy to get a combination of cardio and weight training with soccer, ”he concluded

According to research partner Lars Juel Andersen of the Sports Cardiology Clinic at Gentofte Hospital, Denmark, the results could be good news for millions of people with high blood pressure worldwide.

He shares: “It is well known that physical inactivity in itself is a major risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease, but what is new is that a pleasurable team sport like football is effective in the treatment of high blood pressure.”

In addition, Associate Professor Peter Riis Hansen of Gentofte Hospital believes that football can have other positive effects on the vascular system. These have been termed a decrease in arterial stiffness, which appears to be associated with better cardiovascular outcomes.

Apparently, the researchers are unveiling specific plans to help them study the effects of soccer on other patient populations, such as people with diabetes II and cancer. A follow-up analysis of the long-term effects of football on high blood pressure and the precursors of osteoporosis is also planned. The cardiovascular and musculoskeletal effects of soccer and other ball sports such as basketball, handball, volleyball and floorball on inactive and overweight children and inactive older people are also being investigated by an international network of researchers. The planned collaboration includes experts from England, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, USA, Kenya and Iran.

Various scientific articles from the project are expected to be published on February 2, 2010 at a seminar at the University of Copenhagen. In addition, the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports will publish a special issue with 14 scientific articles from the soccer project later this month.