Effects of recreational football on women’s fitness and health: adaptations and mechanisms

Peter Krustrup, Eva Wulff Helge, Peter R. Hansen, Per Aagaard, Marie Hagman, Morten B. Randers, Maysa de Sousa, Magni Mohr

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


The review describes the fitness and health effects of recreational football in women aged 18–65 years. The review documents that 2×1 h of recreational football training for 12–16 weeks causes marked improvements in maximal oxygen uptake
(5–15%) and myocardial function in women. Moreover, mean arterial blood pressure was shown to decrease by 2–5 mmHg
in normotensive women and 6–8 mmHg in hypertensive women. This review also show that short-term (medium-term (4–16 months) recreational football training has major beneficial impact on metabolic health profile in women,
with fat losses of 1–3 kg and improvements in blood lipid profile. Lastly, 2×1 h per week of recreational football training for
women elevates lower extremity bone mineralisation by 1–5% and whole-body bone mineralization by 1–2% within 4–12-
month interventions. These training adaptations are related to the high heart rates, high number of fast runs, and multiple
changes of direction and speed occurring during recreational football training for untrained women. In conclusion, regular
small-sided football training for women is an intense and versatile type of training that combines elements of high-intensity
interval training (HIIT), endurance training and strength training, thereby providing optimal stimuli for cardiovascular,
metabolic and musculoskeletal fitness. Recreational football, therefore, seems to be an effective tool for prevention and
treatment of lifestyle diseases in young and middle-aged women, including hypertension, type 2 diabetes and osteopenia.
Future research should elucidate effects of football training for elderly women, and as treatment and rehabilitation of breast
cancer patients and other women patient groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-32
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • cardiovascular
  • metabolic
  • musculoskeletal
  • training
  • body composition
  • blood pressure
  • women
  • football


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