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Soccer playing could improve homeless men's health, study says

October 04, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Homeless men's health gets a boost from regular soccer playing, a study finds.
Homeless men's health gets a boost from regular soccer playing, a… (Spencer Platt / Getty Images )

A regular exercise program is good for pretty much every segment of the population, including homeless men.

A small study of homeless men living in Copenhagen found that playing street soccer for 12 weeks improved their cardiovascular health, blood pressure, body fat percentage and cholesterol. Although pedometer readings revealed that the study participants averaged more than 10,000 steps a day, they lacked intense physical activity that can improve the cardiovascular system.

The majority of the men said they regularly smoked cigarettes and marijuana, and many also drank alcohol. Of the 55 original study participants, 33 took part in a soccer training group while the others did not, serving as a control group (they were put on a waiting list to take part in the program later). Among the group, 22 men in the training group and 10 men in the control group finished the trial.

The soccer games took place two to three times a week and included two teams of four people. The men also were able to take part in supervised training at a local gym once a week.

After 12 weeks the men saw their health improve: on average, maximum oxygen uptake (a measure of cardiovascular fitness) improved 11%, body fat decreased 2.5% and LDL (bad) cholesterol went down 6.4%. Diastolic blood pressure (that's the bottom number) also dropped.

"Street football for homeless men ... significantly improves the fitness and cardiovascular health profile of these men," said lead author Peter Krustrup in a news release. "We also observed a very high attendance rate, which is promising for future adherence to physical activity."

The study was released this week in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.

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