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The benefits of physical training are no longer seen solely in terms of its effect on the cardiovascular system, but also with regard to the metabolism. This is because exercise has a beneficial effect on blood lipid and insulin levels, clot formation, inflammation and the nervous system – even below the threshold at which it enhances the circulation. Increasingly, doctors are seeing an independent protective mechanism in this that is much more than just a side-effect of cardiovascular training, especially with regard to disease prevention. Generally, awareness campaigns have ensured that most of us know exercise keeps us physically and mentally fit. But that does not necessarily mean we exercise more. The large discrepancy between knowledge and behavior is a primary healthcare problem. Why exert yourself, force yourself and dispense with comfort when you (still) feel so good? Many well-intended active programmes fail because later diseases do not appear an immediate threat.
Religiously running, walking or going to the gym three times a week requires a lot of self-discipline, especially if you do not particularly enjoy it. Apart from the fact that no everyone is so iron- willed, it would not have an optimum effect, because for something to be genuinely good for our health we have to taker pleasure on it. Our physical health is substantially determined by psychological influences after all. “ This is where football has an enormous advantage,” stressed Professor Dvorak. “If you enjoy playing the game and are able to live out your exercise preferences in doing so, you will keep doing it. Ultimately it is the psychosocial factors, not the biological ones that fire our enthusiasm for exercise in the long term. And only then does it have an optimum preventive effect.”
This applies especially to children and adolescents, who readily take to football in contrast to many other offerings, where coercion, monotony or pressure to perform tend to put them off. In a major schools campaign against obesity in Germany, football achieved the biggest effect of all exercise offerings, especially among girls. “For children exercise has to be varied. It should strengthen the circulation, build up the muscles, maintain their flexibility and improve their adroitness,” explains FIFA’s chief medical officer. “Football can do all these things, and it’s fun as well.”