After what will have seemed like an age to most football fans (or a welcome break for others!), domestic football has finally returned. With the Football League underway last weekend, and the Premier League kicking off this weekend, relieved fans all over the country are gearing themselves up for another season of highs and lows.
There is no doubt about it, the beautiful game is the most popular sport in the country. Sky Sports saw its audience grow by 12% during the last season and BT Sport enjoyed its best ever ratings for a Premier League season. In total, the Premier League says it was watched by around 70% of the UK population last season, either through live games on Sky and BT, or on BBC’s Match of the Day.
However, the real watershed moment came this summer. A peak audience of 11.73 million people tuned into England’s 2-1 defeat to the USA in the Women’s World Cup semi-final – the highest peak audience of any TV show so far this year.
Football has arguably never been as popular, but is that popularity amounting to more people playing football?
The answer is a resounding yes. The FA can proudly boast that football remains far and wide the highest participation sport in the country. Today, over 8 million adults and 3 million children play football regularly. The figure has been rising over the last few years and 3 million more people play football now than in 2015, just 4 years ago.
The health benefits
Football has the power to provide enormous health benefits. It’s is a physically demanding game that gives participants the opportunity to improve their speed, agility, strength, hand-eye coordination and overall cardiovascular endurance. Also, the combination of running, walking, sprinting and kicking can improve stamina, reduce body fat, and lead to improved coordination.
Moreover, playing regularly can reduce the risk of developing certain chronic illnesses such as:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
Getting regularly stuck into a sport like football can also help improve symptoms of some mental health issues like depression and stress and can reduce feelings of anxiety. It can also lead to improved confidence and self-esteem.
Armchair fan to pulling the strings in midfield?
For those that may not enjoy typical forms of exercise but are still looking for a way to get fitter, football has all the mental and physical health benefits but none of the slog. Getting involved in a team sport is a great way to keep motivated too as players encourage each other to push forward and carry on.
The Couch to 5K is a running plan from the NHS for absolute beginners. If the thought of going from the sofa to the football field with no training in between is daunting, the Couch to 5K app can help build fitness before stepping onto the pitch.
Keen to give the beautiful game a go but not sure how or where to start? Find out more from the FA.
Finally, it’s important to note that football is an impact sport which, when played frequently, can be tough on joints compared to other non-weight bearing activities like swimming or cycling. Medical advice should be sought by those unsure whether football is the right sport for them for any joint concerns.
However, if the main game is a bit much, there could be another solution! Walking football is a slower version of the game and shares many of the same benefits of regular football. For more information or to find a local club visit the Walking Football Association.