You can have kickin’ cognition – worry less and enjoy more social capital

Fifty researchers from seven countries conducted an extensive soccer research project that studied “physiological, psychological and sociological aspects of recreational soccer and compared it with running” (Science Daily).  Professors Peter Krustrup and Jens Bangsbo from the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Exercise and Sports Sciences oversaw the three year project.  The study followed men, women and children, all divided into soccer, running and control groups.

The study’s results were so startling that the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports published a special edition issue entitled “Football for Health,” containing 14 scientific articles from the soccer project.

Researchers studied the physical effects of soccer training on individuals from ages  9 – 77 that had no previous soccer experience.  Soccer provides “broad-spectred health and fitness effects that are at least as pronounced as for running, and in some cases even better.” As a team sport, soccer may contain positive motivational and social factors that “may facilitate compliance and contribute to the maintenance of a physically active lifestyle.” Studies showed that “soccer training for 2 – 3 hours per week causes significant cardiovascular, metabolic and musculoskeletal adaptations, independent on gender, age or lack of experience with soccer.”

Participants maintained these effects even with decreased training frequency of 1 – 2 hours per week.  The study researchers found that “recreational soccer … appears to be an effective type of training leading to performance improvements and significant beneficial effects to health, including a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular diseases, falls and fractures.”

Soccer provides physical benefits for nearly all who choose to participate in the sport.  It is an intensely healthy promoting activity.  Various benefits also manifest, although they are typically different in male and female groups.  Women experience a greater sense of social capital, as they are included in a group in which they consider themselves and important aspect.  Runners are more focused on their performance as individuals, but soccer players are able to evaluate their performance individually and in relation to teammates.  Men, however, experience less anxiety when playing soccer.  Male study participants “felt motivated, happy and involved to the point where they forgot time and fatigue.”

The significance of this study can hardly be overstated.  It clearly illustrates the necessity of exercising, and not only exercising but preferably exercising within a social framework of sorts.  Diminished anxiety removes unnecessary stress from individuals, which can suppress cognition, and an increased sense of connectivity to others increases one’s overall sense of well being.  Brainjogging encourages students to participate physical activities, especially ones with peers, who provide appropriate role models and build students’ sense of self.  Exercise generally heightens individuals’ quality of life, which allows them to commit themselves to other areas, including academic and social success.

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