Get ready to clean your cleats and round up a team! If you want one of the best ways to get and stay in shape, a new study reveals that soccer is it. As part of the Soccer, Running and Health for Women project, researchers studied the numerous mental and physical aspects of women who play soccer vs. those who run. Their findings? Soccer players tend to be more fit, more motivated and more likely to stick with the sport than their running counterparts.
As a runner who is very protective of my sport, when I first read this, I thought there must be some mistake. How can any other sport compare to the hard work and sweat equity of running miles upon miles at a time? But as I thought about it, logic kicked in.
Soccer offers many things that running doesn’t (sorry, running). Twists, turns, jumps, sprints, kicks and dives are typically seen on the field. Sixty minutes alone of chasing after a ball can easily turn into a fat-burning, muscle-toning, heart-pumping fest that running at a moderate speed can’t touch. Soccer can burn up to 680 calories an hour, and it has been shown to rid the body of more fat and build more muscle than running alone.
Aside from the physical benefits, there are numerous psychological ones that make soccer more motivating. Many people would assume that running offers the greatest flexibility and, therefore, the greatest longevity. Not so, according to Laila Ottesen, associate professor of physiology at the University of Copenhagen. “The runners were motivated by the idea of getting in shape and improving health,” she says in a press release.
“But the soccer players focused on the game itself and were motivated by the social interaction and having fun with others.” It seems the flexibility of running makes it too easy to say, “I’ll do it later,” and then later never happens. Whereas with soccer, having a set time with a team counting on you scores more fitness points.
An exceptional workout, team camaraderie, competitiveness, motivation and fun — soccer seems to have it all for women. Add in a healthy meal after the game, and you have a great girl’s night out, too!