Most older people undertake far less exercise than they might, and there is a cost in health and life expectancy associated with the choice to live a sedentary life. Studies like this one help to quantify the difference between exercise and no exercise, and therefore the health benefits that are either obtained or lost:
Our previous studies have shown that 70-year-old men with lifelong participation in football possess a postural balance and rapid muscle force that is comparable to that of 30-year-old untrained men. This time we have gone one step further by evaluating the intensity of football training as well as the health and fitness effects of football for untrained elderly men with little experience of football.
The study revealed that inactive elderly men improved their maximum oxygen uptake by 15% and their performance during interval exercise by as much as 50% by playing football for 1 hour two times per week over 4 months. Moreover, muscle function was improved by 30% and bone mineralization in the femoral neck increased by 2%.
The results provide strong evidence that football is an intense, versatile and effective form of training, including for untrained elderly men. It is definitely never too late to start playing football. Football boosts physical capacity and heart health, and minimizes the risk of falls and fractures in elderly, men who have never played football before or have not played for decades.
Our study shows that intense training such as football can change the lives of elderly men. The remarkable improvements in aerobic fitness and muscle strength make it easier for the players to live an active life and overcome the physical challenges of everyday life such as climbing stairs, shopping, cycling and gardening.