The Institute of Public Health of the University of Porto (ISPUP) and the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) have developed a project called ‘SWEET-Football’, which uses soccer as a medicine to treat patients with type 2 diabetes.
In an interview, Romeo Mendes, the ISPUP researcher responsible for the project, said the main goal of SWEET-Football, which began in September, is to “evaluate the applicability and safety” of what is a recreational football variant – walking football ‘.
“Traditionally the type of activities that are available to this population and the solutions that society offers do not adequately involve people, who easily end up giving up the activity. When we want to promote behavioral changes in the community there must be intrinsic and extrinsic motivations that, in fact, change the way of life of people, “he said.
The ‘SWEET-Football’ project, developed with the support of the Association of Health Centers (ACES) of the Eastern Port of the Regional Health Administration of the North, brings together about 30 patients with type 2 diabetes, aged between 50 and 70 years, from the areas of Paranhos and Arca d’Água, in Porto.
“There is a greater prevalence of type 2 diabetes in men than in women. Therefore, we also take advantage of the fact that in our country, the male public has a very emotional and affective relationship with football, or because they like sports, or because until they were players “, clarified the researcher.
According to Romeo Mendes, participants practice the “minimum dose of activity” recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the treatment of this disease, when performing three training sessions per week that last for one hour.
“The minimum weekly dose advocated by WHO is 150 minutes, but our project offers about 180 minutes per week, using physical activity as if it were a medication. Participants are accompanied by a football coach, a physiologist and a nurse, “he said.
However, although physical activity is considered by the WHO as one of the mainstays of type 2 diabetes treatment, obesity, aging and low physical fitness, the exercises practiced in this project are “slower”. taking into account that “the risks inherent in football could put safety issues in the participants”.
“The only rules of ‘walking football’ are that no one runs and there is no physical contact. Anyone with the ball knows that no one is going to take it and that was fundamental for these people to accept to play football, since they feel that they are practicing with security, “explained Romeo Mendes.
The researchers, who are now collecting the main results of the project, will go early next year to “implement small projects nationwide”.
“We need to involve health centers, hospitals, football clubs and municipalities. This is a perfectly possible project, with no funding available between health centers, resources that already exist in municipalities and in small and medium-sized football clubs “Our great goal for the next season is to expand ‘walking football’ as a medicine,” he added.
Although type 2 diabetes mainly affects the male population, researchers are also looking for a “solution for women,” which may not be football, but a more “traditional” mode.