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The calorie-burning game

Comments (16)
By Peter Hadzipetros

Well, my little black toenail was a tad out of joint when I came across this study recently. A Danish sports scientist and his colleagues have concluded that soccer burns more fat than jogging.

"Does not," was my first reaction. "No way." Then I took a closer look at the study.

Peter Krustup and his team of researchers followed three groups for three months. The first was 14 untrained men between the ages of 20 and 40. They got together two or three times a week for an hour at a time for soccer practice. They were forming a team.

The players were tested for fitness level, muscle mass, percentage of body fat, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and balance. They all showed significant improvements.

Krustup's team also tested a group of joggers as well as a group that did no exercise. The joggers showed improvement as well, but not as much as the soccer players. The soccer players lost 3.5 kilograms of body fat while the joggers lost about 2. The soccer players gained 2 kg of muscle mass. The joggers didn't gain any.

The group that did no exercise? Well, they showed no improvement.

Krustup believes the soccer players scored better because of the shifts between walking, running and sprinting. He adds that working together as a group also made a hard workout seem easier, so the guys were motivated to stick with it.

That makes sense. Anytime you mix up your workouts or do it with other people, you will reap greater benefits. Studies have shown that there are definite benefits to interval training — or short bursts of hard effort broken up by exercise at a more relaxed pace.

It's how the body gets stronger. The hard workout stresses your body, but you recover to a slightly higher fitness level than before the workout.

In an e-mail, Krustup told me that the joggers he followed did their workouts at "continuous moderate intensity running at the same average heart rate as the football players."

"The effects of interval training [on joggers] are likely to be more efficient," he said.

Krustup's looking more deeply into the topic and expects to publish more findings soon.

The bottom line is that any activity that raises your heart rate and keeps you engaged several times a week is going to lead to significant health benefits. It's a message that almost half of Canadians are not getting, according to a recent report from Statistics Canada.

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Comments (16)

Reza Seirafi

I would like to find out how much a soccer playe would burn calories in a 90min. game in the EPL(England) and compare it to a plyer in Italian League or French League. Of course I'm talking about an average player who plays in theire 1st. divisions(highest division).

Posted June 8, 2008 07:29 PM

Roger

Milton

I can certainly attest to the benefits of soccer vs. jogging, I agree that interval training may have a similar effect but with the added competition and physical factor, there is no comparison. I still play fairly competitive soccer at 44 years of age and most of us still play hard and play to win. It's much more complex than just the running, it's also the sudden twists stops and turns, the kicking (of the ball, not the players) and the physical contact that actually makes soccer so much better than jogging. Albeit, the injuries sustained in soccer are endless. I've personally had a broken nose, seperated shoulder, severely sprained ankle not to mention the many bruises, scrapes and lost toenails but in my eyes there's no better sport for staying in shape. At 44 years of age I have a resting heart rate of 49 BPM, I can still run a 100m in under 12 seconds and 18:30 in a 5k. Let's see if any joggers out there can do that.

Posted September 4, 2007 11:21 AM

Rick Thibodeau

Ryan from Halifax has the right idea in comparing muscular work with different intensities. People don't lose fat faster because of having more fat. It's (rather crudely) simply a relation to caloric expenditure and the type of exercise done along with current metabolic demands.

Interval training is known to be the best way to burn body fat in addition to improving muscular conditioning and motor functioning with the shortest amount of time. Would you rather run for 2 hours or do a 30 minute high intensity sprint cycle for the same effect? It's essentially up to preferences; if you enjoy running run. Interval training uses more muscles in different periods of time, hence more calories burned and effectively burning more fat than the 'cyclical' nature of jogging.

People who are out of shape will generally show significant improvements no matter what exercise they do within the first 6-10 weeks. Eventually plateaus are hit and it takes months, years even to show significant progress. Studies like looking at out of shape people because it puts out good numbers, but it may not be reflective for long term goals.

Simply put; you run, you get fit...doesn't matter which way you do it :)

(just as long as you aren't eating mcdonalds after)

Posted September 2, 2007 12:22 PM

jim macguigan

vancouver

Being almost ready for OAP this year and living with arthritic knees, I still bike the whole of UBC in one hour and 30 minutes and do my regular back and forth biking too. The endorphins flood the body and kill the pain and rest and ASA help afterwards. During the rainy season i bike in the gym and use weight. My weight remains stable.I have been doing this for the last 30 years and will till I drop.

Posted September 1, 2007 07:04 PM

Ron Suhan

Yes, working out with a group is generaly more intense and with less pain. I cycle 8 to 12 hours a week and when I am out with a group I can survive about 80 km @ 30 kmph. When out alone I can do about 120 km @ 27kmph. At the end of May as the rains came I started experimenting with interval training while on the road: A one minute burst, recovery, a couple minutes normal pedaling then another one minute burst. The results were surprisingly good! I learned this stuff 25 years ago in High School. Nothing new under the sun except a gringo pedaling his ass off!

Posted August 27, 2007 01:45 PM

Jim

Timmins

The only issue i take with this study is the idea of jogging in groups. Although I will agree that having a partner or group will effect your participation positively, its been my experience that the more proficient runner is losing intensity, and the less able runner is pushing ability to the point of injury or stress. My significant other does not run at all, but is very fit from other athletic pusuits. Our closest friends are in the same boat: She is an athletics teacher and running coach, he coaches hockey but has ankle issues that restrict him from running. I have no problem running with her from time to time, but she feels she's slowing me down, and i feel i'm pushing her. I enjoy the company, but make sure to include solo runs in the week when i can do hills, intervals or fartleks. As for the findings of the study, I have to agree that if you just jog, you wont see the fat loss or muscle quality that you will if you run. i.e. train for a race.

Posted August 27, 2007 12:04 PM

Ryan

Halifax

This has nothing to do with soccer vs jogging. It is merely different qualities of muscular work. The sport involved is a moot point.

As someone has already stated, this is more of a comparison of interval training vs. steady state, and although poorly controlled, the results are not surprising. Why is interval better? Because it involves harder muscular work. Period. Results will always be more forthcoming to those who work harder rather than longer.

Posted August 27, 2007 11:56 AM

Tim

It's not just the working out with other people that affects how much effort you put out--it also has to do with the competition factor. I imagine forming a team, these guys became friends and they likely pushed each other (especially with a game on the line). I doubt many joggers would do that.

My sport of preference is basketball and while there's less running, there's extra jumping and quick movements. It's much easier to get in shape playing a sport, in my experience.

Posted August 26, 2007 04:12 PM

Deb Johnson

Honestly, I'm not surprised at that finding. I do find when I do walk or run with friends, or a group, I do tend to notice the pain less. I can go farther, and feel better about that, when I've got the social aspect of talking taking away from the plodding pain of the activity :)
Soccer is fun, no doubt about it. A friend played a pick-up game of soccer almost every noon hour at Health Canada, and he swore it was the reason he was able to run a 5 km race in about 55 mins. with no practice, at all. :P Put my time of 1:22, with practice to shame.

Posted August 25, 2007 11:06 PM

Colton Brydges

Lauren, they probably would have tried to find people of similar starting fitness, though that might be a potential discrepancy.
I'm 15 years old and currently play representative soccer in the GTA, and I can attest to the positive affect soccer can have on a person's fitness. I practice twice a week and play at least one game a week, so I get a good workout. I can jog for considerably longer than I can play soccer for.

Posted August 25, 2007 09:05 PM

Brenda

Abbotsford

There have been numerous studies in regards to the positive effects of interval training that back up this recent finding. As a female athlete and athletic trainer, I have found that women gain more muscle definition and drop pounds faster because interval training combats our slower metabolism more effectively. Whether it be through sports or carefully designed workout programs, interval training carries the most weight with positive results.

Posted August 25, 2007 12:29 PM

Linda

I jogged for 20 years but had to stop at the age of 47 because of unrelated hip problems. I have replaced my fitness sessions on the treadmill with other cardio equipment but the results have never been the same. I always ran to the beat of the tune on my walkman with a variation of slow (classic rock) to fast tempo music (My daughter was an amateur of Techno). I pushed and recovered continuously. Maybe this researcher has the right idea. I will make sure to apply this technique from now on during my workouts. I guess I will have to switch to an I Pod, however, I will no longer use my daughter’s music since her recent preference to Punk music.

Posted August 24, 2007 10:48 PM

Art Jaszczyk

As a 57 year old who did not play soccer, but played 'netminder' in hockey in my youth, & now take fitness courses like STEP, Stability Ball & Muscle Conditioning at my local community fitness centre, I concur that exercise is the only route to go. Attitude, proper diet and exercise are the key to a balanced approach to healthy living. I also had open heart surgery on February 14, 2006 at Toronto General Hospital, and I recovered very quickly and returned to my regimen of exercise by April, 2006. Be happy & be well is my motto.

Posted August 24, 2007 07:40 PM

CK

Ottawa

Good Call Lauren it didn't really say what the fitnes levels were of all the participants.

In any case...if I wasn't so afraid of getting the ball in my face I would probably start participating.

Posted August 24, 2007 05:54 PM

Keith Eccles

I am a 67 year old who played soccer regularly up age 40 and also refereed soccer regularly from age 45 to age 57. During my active periods I had no problems with fitness or being overweight. I put on 20lbs between age 40 and 45 but lost it quite quickly once I started as a soccer referee.
Since age 57, even though I have walked 4-5 km every day, my weight slowly climbed back up so I started jogging and weight training about 1 year ago. Weight has come down but certainly not as fast as it did when I was involved with soccer.
Just wish I was young enough to play again!!

Posted August 24, 2007 04:07 PM

Lauren

Edmonton

As a soccer player I'm happy to hear it. But could it just be that the soccer players lost more fat because they were starting from a lower fitness level and had more fat to lose? Whereas the joggers were already fit, starting the study with less fat to lose.

Posted August 24, 2007 10:56 AM

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