It’s the world’s most popular sport—and a great way to lower your blood pressure. A study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that playing soccer 2 days a week had a bigger effect on blood pressure than moderate daily exercise.
Researchers recruited 33 men between the ages of 33 and 54 with high blood pressure and randomly divided them into two groups—one that played soccer twice a week for one hour, and one that was told to exercise daily for 30 to 45 minutes at a moderate pace. After six months, the soccer players saw their blood pressure drop twice as much as the non-players. (Maybe that’s one of the reasons Why Soccer Players Are Smarter Than You.)
“Higher-intensity exercise does have a whole different impact on the body’s physiology,” says cardiologist Eric Topol, M.D., director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute and a Men’s Health expert advisor. Your heart rate is higher and your blood vessels are more dilated than with moderate exercise. This high level of stress—which moderate exercise can’t provide—forces your body into overtime to adapt. That might be why soccer lowers your blood pressure better than moderate exercise, says Dr. Topol.
“Soccer is a terrific sport in terms of overall conditioning,” says Todd Durkin, C.S.C.S., founder of Fitness Quest 10 and author of The Impact Body Plan. It combines lots of different running speeds with intense spurts of acceleration—a hard combo to beat because your body never gets the chance to fully recover…
Read more: Men’s Health