Alzheimer's Foundation of America

Foundation of America

Kick Up Your Brain Health a Notch with Soccer

(July 10, 2019)—There’s no better time to embrace soccer than right now as the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team just won its fourth World Cup title on Sunday, celebrated by a ticker tape parade today in New York City. Soccer is a not only a favorite sport and pastime for people all over the world but it’s great for brain health for all ages, according to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA).  Here’s why:

Soccer is a full-body, cardiovascular workout, and what’s good for the heart is good for the brain. During a 90-minute game players are walking and running from one end of the field to the other.  The aerobic fitness demands of soccer keep your heart rate up and clear the build-up of plaque inside the arteries. All this increases blood flood, oxygen, and nutrients to your brain.

It provides lots of eye-foot coordination practice.  This is a skill controlled by the cerebellum that requires the eyes to understand objects in relation to our bodies and respond in a controlled and appropriate way. This soccer skill allows players to make pinpoint passes and kick with accuracy. With a decline in eye-foot coordination practice, the brain can have trouble communicating efficiently when telling the feet to carry out a movement.

Soccer provides stress relief which is important to brain health.  Long-term stress can interfere with cognition, attention, memory and sleep. A healthy game of soccer will lower cortisol levels, which are linked to anxiety and increase feel-good endorphins.

More vitamin D. Soccer usually requires you to play outside, increasing your exposure to sunlight, which helps boost vitamin D levels.  Scientists have found that low levels of vitamin D is associated with cognitive impairment and higher risk for dementia.

Social interaction.  Research shows that having a larger social network positively affects the brain and may reduce our risk of dementia. Our brains are actually “wired” to be socially connected.