Soccer Training Improves Heart Health of Men with Type 2 Diabetes

Photo: Men playing soccer

After three months of training, the heart of men with type 2 diabetes had become 10 years younger; © Andreas Gradin/

A new study from the Copenhagen Centre for Team Sport and Health at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, demonstrates that soccer training improves heart function, reduces blood pressure and elevates exercise capacity in patients with type 2 diabetes. Soccer training also reduces the need for medication.

The study investigated the effects of soccer training, consisting of small-sided games (5v5), on 21 men with type 2 diabetes, aged 37-60 years.

"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. This means that after three months of training, the heart had become 10 years 'younger'," explains Jakob Friis Schmidt, who co-authored the study alongside with PhD student, Thomas Rostgaard Andersen. "Soccer training significantly improved the flexibility of the heart,” he adds. "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."

Advanced ultrasound scanning of the heart also demonstrated that the heart's contraction phase was improved and that the capacity of the heart to shorten was improved by 23 percent – a research result that had not been reported with other types of physical activity.

At the start of the study, 60 percent of the participants had too high blood pressure and had been prescribed one or more pressure reducing medications. Soccer training reduced the systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 8 mmHg, which is greater than the achievements of prior training studies. These effects are as pronounced as those achieved by taking high blood pressure pills and the need for medication was significant reduced.

The study also showed that the participants' maximal oxygen uptake was increased by 12 percent and that their intermittent exercise capacity was elevated 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 Thomas Rostgaard.

Professor Jens Bangsbo, head of the Copenhagen Centre for Team Sport and Health at University of Copenhagen, adds: "The results of the study, coupled with participants' interest in continuing to play after the study, show that soccer has a great potential to help diabetic patients. This does not only gain the patients, but also contribute socio-economically."; Source: University of Copenhagen

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