Association football or soccer is a hugely popular sport, played all over the world at all different levels, from the grassroots to the very top. Playing football is a great way to improve your fitness levels, requiring a good level of aerobic endurance, speed, endurance, agility, strength and power. As a highly enjoyable team sport it’s great for your motivation too.
How to get started playing soccer
Despite being one of the most popular spectator sports worldwide, there’s no reason not to get involved in actually playing the 'beautiful game'. Even if 90 minutes of football may at first seem well beyond your current fitness capabilities, there’s also the shortened but high-intensity versions of the game, such as five-a-side football, to get you off your backside and out playing.
The best thing about football is you don’t have to have the dribbling skills of Ronaldo or the passion and drive of Messi to be involved in the game. Pretty much anyone can have a go at football, but playing it well requires not only the skills and knowledge of the game, but also the physical fitness to compete well.
The physical demands of soccer
Soccer demands both aerobic and anaerobic capacity. During games, players must be able to sprint hard, recover quickly by jogging, and then sprint hard again. This is a very effective way of burning calories and lowering body fat.
Top class footballers can be expected to burn in the region of 1,000 to 1,500 calories in the course of a 90 minute match and will cover approximately 8km to 11km (5 to 7 miles), depending on their position and the level of competition, so it’s clear the level of fitness required for footballers is high.
Because of the stop-start and explosive nature of football, players are prone to injury, particularly in the hamstring, calf, and achilles, so it’s important to warm up. Footballers also require good flexibility to prevent such injuries, so including stretching is a must and should form a part of every player's training regime.
We’re not saying that you have to be a supreme athlete to play soccer, because just about anyone can (and does) turn out regularly, whether it’s a five-a-side kick about with work colleagues or at a more serious competitive level, perhaps by taking part in Sunday League football.
So why not use soccer as your way back into fitness? As a team sport it might just give you all the motivation you need to get yourself back into shape.