Researchers say that playing soccer can help women get in better shape than just running.
Lead researcher and Associate Professor Peter Krustrup from University of Copenhagen said that many women find it difficult to fit in sport and exercise in their busy daily lives, and many give family and especially small children as the main reason for not finding the time.
The study showed that flexibility of running as exercise form actually makes running harder to stick to for most women than soccer, which requires a fixed time and place.
"What is really interesting is that the soccer players differed from the runners in their motivation," said associate Professor Laila Ottesen.
"The runners were motivated by the idea of getting in shape and improving health. But the soccer players focused on the game itself and were motivated by the social interaction and by having fun with others.
"As it turns out, the soccer players got in better shape than the runners, and that combined with the social benefits makes soccer a great alternative to running", she added.
The study involving 100 untrained adult premenopausal women, showed that women who played soccer have continued their soccer training as a group whereas few of the women in the running group continued running after the study.
"While playing soccer, the women have high heart rates and perform many sprints, turns, kicks and tackles, making soccer an effective integration of both cardio and strength training", said Krustrup.
"Our study shows that the 16 weeks of recreational women's soccer causes marked improvement in maximal oxygen uptake, muscle mass and physical performance, including the endurance, intermittent exercise and sprinting ability," explains the expert.
"This makes soccer a very favorable choice of exercise training for women," he added.