Who’s up for a kickabout? by Dr Alex Ryan


DrAlexRyanI recently attended the Endocrinology Society symposium ENDO2015 out here in San Diego. A lot of the conference was for clinicians, and people who see patients, but it was still really interesting. I spent a good deal of my time learning about new things and areas I was unsure of, but there was one poster which was right in my wheelhouse; “Football training and caloric-restricted diet on biomarkers of insulin action in Brazilian patients with Type 2 diabetes” by Dr Maysa Vieira de Sousa. The poster was mostly based on her recently published paper, which described the benefits or football on those with Type 2 Diabetes.

As I’ve mentioned before, and you probably all know, exercise has numerous benefits for people with Type 2 Diabetes. Increased exercise and dietary interventions are usually the first piece of advice obese and Type 2 Diabetics are given.

As well as basically running around, football instinctively involves several activities linked to increasing muscle strength such as jumps, sprints and quick turns. People with diabetes have weakened bones and muscles, and these types of exercises can improve them. So, this, coupled with the cardiac exercise involved, suggests that football could be an excellent exercise. Those with Diabetes have increased risk of fractures, and the weakened muscles and bones play a large part in this.

Dr de Sousa’s work was based in Brazil, a country obsessed with football, similar to the UK. Participants took part in training three times a week for 12 weeks. These sessions were for 40 minutes, and involved a 10-minute warm up, followed by two 12-minute games, ranging from 3-a-side to 7-a-side. As well as the football, participants were given dietary advice leading to a 500-1000 calorie daily decrease, and were encouraged to have low fat and low sugar foods.

Basal levels of glucose and insulin were decreased in both groups, but football didn’t improve this any further; instead it improved the way insulin was utilised. After 12 weeks those who played football had improved insulin sensitivity. They also had an increased VO2 max, meaning that they were more able to use oxygen, implying a greater fitness level. Her poster also contained data showing that muscle strength was increased after football training, and more information about increased insulin sensitivity. But I’ll wait until she has published her work to write about it properly. Somewhat awesomely, Dr de Sousa also mentioned that a few of the participants were able to decrease their medications after playing football. Which I’m sure is good news for everyone.

So, basically football is great, and playing it a couple of times a week can improve insulin responsiveness, muscle and bone strength, and overall fitness. There was no mention of quality, and all of the participants were over 48, male and female, so there’s no excuse from anyone.

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