Researchers from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, found that soccer training improves heart function, reduces blood pressure and elevates exercise capacity in men with type 2 diabetes — with similarly impressive results not reported with other types of physical activity, the researchers said. Soccer training also reduces the need for medication.
The study involved 21 men, aged 37-60 years, who either played small-sided games (5v5) twice a week or — a control group — had no lifestyle change. Subjects underwent advanced ultrasound scanning of the heart after 12 and 24 months.
“We discovered that soccer training significantly improved the flexibility of the heart and furthermore, that the cardiac muscle tissue was able to work 29 percent faster,” said coauthor Dr. Jakob Friis Schmidt.
“Many type 2 diabetes patients have less flexible heart muscles which is often one of the first signs of diabetes’ effect on cardiac function, increasing the risk of heart failure.”
Soccer training reduced the systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 8 mmHg, which is as pronounced as those achieved by taking high blood pressure pills, the researchers said.
The study also showed that the participants’ maximal oxygen uptake was increased by 12 percent and that their intermittent exercise capacity was bolstered by 42 percent.
“An improved physical condition reduces the risk for other illnesses associated with type 2 diabetes and makes it easier to get along with daily tasks and maintain a physically active life,” says coauthor Thomas Rostgaard.
Findings appear in the Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise.
A separate study published in April suggests that lifting weights may help diabetics keep their blood glucose levels under control. Researchers from the University of Michigan say that lifting weights can increase white muscle — the type of muscles found in athletes requiring short, intense bursts of energy — which in turn may help keep diabetes in check. Findings were published in the journal Nature Medicine.