5 reasons why women should give football a go
With women’s football making global headlines, Vitality Magazine explores why the sport ticks all the boxes for women’s health
Football in England has come a long way since its inception more than 130 years ago – and no less for the women who love the beautiful game.
Female players have moved on from football’s chequered past, after being banned from the sport for more than 50 years up until the 1970s, to smash ceilings and break records on an almost monthly basis.
After racking up more than 250 million viewing hours during 2022, the women’s game has also underlined its popularity with spectators; and this has continued to spread like wildfire during 2023.
And now that the world is awake to the roar of the England team...Vitality Magazine asks our experts why football is the ideal sport for women to get into and the health benefits.
Building strength and fitness
The average professional footballer runs around 7 miles in one game, while referees can cover between six and eight miles over the 90 minutes, according to Runners World. Football is, therefore, an ideal sport to – not only increase your step count – but to activate your muscles and get the blood pumping.
“The combination of jumping, sprinting, slower bouts of running, changes of direction and kicking class football as both an ‘aerobic activity and anaerobic activity’, which means that you breathe harder and faster and also improve strength at the muscle,” explains Jonny Kibble, Vitality’s Head of Exercise & Physical Activity.
Increase bone mineral density
Women are at greater risk of osteoporosis and osteopenia – low bone density not yet in the osteoporosis range – due to having smaller and less dense bones, when compared with men. And this risk only increases with age, particularly during the menopause.
“This is because the female hormone oestrogen – which is essential for healthy bones – often falls during menopause, leading to a rapid decrease in bone density,” says Jonny.
So, it’s incredibly important for women to build their bone mineral density to future-proof them from a diagnosis later in life.
“Sprinting and jumping during a game helps to combat this, ensuring that your bones and muscles have maximum strength,” he explains.
“Reaching and tackling in football also greatly improves mobility and flexibility, which can help against the effects of ageing.”
It’s really accessible
Football is really accessible as not much equipment is required. Needing just a ball to play and something to act as a goal post, a jumper or item of clothing will suffice if you’ve not got something sturdy, then you’re good to go.
And that means it’s an ideal sport for any age to get involved, “as long as it’s played sensibly,” notes Jonny.
Meanwhile, picking up an athletic sport that can be fast paced and technical for the first time can be intimidating. But starting is the biggest hurdle to overcome.
“Playing doesn’t have to be with a competitive team either, it could just be playing in the park with friends or on your own in the garden,” he adds.
It has mental health benefits
Physical activity is known to release endorphins, which gives us that ‘feel-good factor’. This can contribute to improved self-esteem and, as findings by Healthline shows, the release of endorphins acts as a blocker to pain.
“Aside from the physical element, football can have a huge impact on our mental health and wellbeing too,” says qualified therapist Belinda Sidhu.
“As a team-based sport, it could help boost self-confidence and increase motivation.
“It’s also a social sport and doesn’t have to be with a competitive team either; even just playing in the park with friends or on your own in the garden can have an impact on our mood, and in turn our health.
“Playing with others can also help our social wellbeing and combat feeling of loneliness.”
Improves cardiovascular health
Ramping up your heart rate during exercise trains the body to move oxygen and blood to the muscles more efficiently.
And by improving the heart’s cardiovascular health in this way, you can reduce your risks of some nasty diagnosis.
“[Football] can help to reduce the risk of certain chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, a stroke and type 2 diabetes,” explains Jonny.
So, if running solo isn't for you, a jog around a football pitch is a great place to ensure you are upping your heart rate.
Get rewarded for the activities you do, when you take out a policy with Vitality.
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