You Can Teach an Old Man New Soccer Tricks

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It’s never too late to start playing soccer and reap the health benefits, according to a new study.

Researchers from Denmark monitored a group of men between 63 and 75 years of age who took up soccer for the first time and looked at the effect playing soccer had on their bodies.

“The study revealed that inactive elderly men improved their maximum oxygen uptake by 15% and their performance during interval exercise by as much as 50% by playing football for 1 hour two times per week over 4 months. Moreover, muscle function was improved by 30% and bone mineralization in the femoral neck increased by 2%,” says lead researcher Professor Peter Krustrup.

“The remarkable improvements in aerobic fitness and muscle strength make it easier for the players to live an active life and overcome the physical challenges of everyday life such as climbing stairs, shopping, cycling and gardening,” says Krustrup.

There’s also good news for life long soccer players.

Previous studies by the Copenhagen Centre for Team Sport and Health found that lifelong soccer players who still play the sport in their 70’s, “possess a postural balance and rapid muscle force that is comparable to that of 30-year-old untrained men”.

Looking to learn a new trick? Try Fernando Torres’ Bicycle Kick, this is his guide:

Spain striker, and Euro 2012 Golden Boot winner, Fernando Torres shows us how to perform the tricky bicycle kick

1. Foundation

With your back towards goal, line up with the flight of the ball and keep your eyes on it throughout. Use your hands to hold off opponents. The majority of the time you’ll be attempting this trick the ball will be coming at you fast from the wing – so peripheral vision, timing and a good connection are vital.

2. Take off

Here, agility comes into play. Jump up, leaving your kicking foot on the ground and using the foot that you won’t be kicking with to propel you upwards. Start falling backwards, keeping your eye on the ball. As your body sinks towards the ground, your non-kicking leg should rise into the air, while your kicking leg may still be on the ground.

3. Execution

When the ball is in ideal range (practise will help you gauge), whip your kicking leg off the ground into the back of the ball while bringing your other leg down quickly. At this point, your upper body should be almost horizontal to the ground with your knee and foot slightly higher – a strong core is needed here. If you strike the ball and it flies too high over the target, your body is probably too upright. It’s the scissor movement of your legs that creates the power and good timing will determine accuracy.

4. Landing

To avoid injury as you fall (because you’ll want to celebrate afterwards), stretch out your hand to steady your impact with the ground. Twist your body sideways to avoid landing flat on your back. Use your arms to cushion your fall, but avoid landing on your elbows or head.

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