The University of Leeds Biomedical department and British betting company BetVictor recently partnered in a study to find the health effects of watching football. 

The study analysed 25 Leeds United supporters between the ages of 20 and 62, and the health impact of watching three key games from last season's Championship campaign.

The participants were physiologically and psychologically monitored in the games against Brentford and the two-playoff semi-finals against Derby, and this is what they found.

For the purpose of the study, participants were not allowed to eat or drink within four hours of the game, and alcohol was not to be consumed. 

Heart Rate

Over the course of the three games, average participant heart rates increased to as much as 130 BPM (64% up on the average base rate). This elevation in heart rate is known as 'positive stress' and is a cardiovascular workout akin to a 90-minute brisk walk. 

Heart rates were found to peak around goal-scoring opportunities, with a Leeds United goal increasing the average heart rate by 27% while conceding a goal increased the heart rate by 22%. 

Dr Andrea Utley, Reader in Motor Control and Development at the University of Leeds said: "It was clear that fans were passionate about the game with heart rate elevated during the match to a similar level of that when going for a brisk walk."

"A goal for either team caused a brief increase in heart rate of an average of 20 BPM from the match average.

"Ultimately supporting your team at a soccer match gives you a moderate cardiovascular workout and depending on the result of the match, a psychological boost or slump."

Blood Pressure

While watching live football increased pressure on base measurements, the findings found that a win had a positive health impact of lowering blood pressure after the game was over. 

The same could not be said for a team loss, where blood pressure continued to increase on the already elevated pre-match and half-time readings, well after the matches were over.

The study even found blood pressure to rise to unhealthy levels at times, particularly in the chaotic second-leg of the Leeds and Derby playoff semi-final where blood pressure reached Hypertension Stage 2.

However, the participants never experienced a dangerously high level of blood pressure.

Psychological Analysis

In order to gauge the psychological impact of watching football, the participants filled out a short mood survey which came after a focus group discussion, before and after each game.

Supporters reported enhanced mood and positivity after watching a victory, however, this euphoria only lasted for 24 hours.

Ultimately, the enjoyment of viewing a sporting event is a function of the outcome of the game, with the study finding the negativity and depression of a loss is more long term.

The negative mood state was said to often last days after the defeat, and in severe cases resulted in depression and violent behaviour. 

It seemed football fans were constantly chasing the 'high' of seeing their team win. Unluckily for these Leeds United fans, last season's efforts ended in heartbreak.

Of course, further research would need to be done to fully validate these findings, however, supporters will be happy to know they can spend 90 minutes sitting and enjoying the football with the same benefits of moderate exercise. 

To view the full study, please click here.

 

© FTBL