Team sports may help middle-age women retain heart health

Feb. 23, 2014 at 12:56 PM
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COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Team sports can help make up for the estrogen loss of women in menopause to help heart health, University of Copenhagen researchers say.

Michael Nyberg, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Copenhagen, said when women enter menopause, their estrogen levels taper putting them at risk of cardiovascular disease.

Team sports can make up for women's estrogen loss as it improves their conditions, reduces blood pressure and thereby protects the cardiovascular system, Nyberg said.

Thirteen pre-menopausal women ages 45 to 55 took part in the study, as well as 10 recently post-menopausal women. All of the women were tested before and after the 12-week training period, during which they played floorball twice a week.

Floorball is a type of indoor street hockey -- no ice, no skates, limited padding, no body checking -- involving six players per team including a goalkeeper, using a wiffle ball and a lighter, shorter hockey stick. Players dress in T-shirts, shorts and sneakers.

"Floorball training is intense, with many short sprints, directional changes and a high pulse achieved -- but participants don't really pay attention to all of this," Nyberg said in a statement. "This high intensity is one of the primary reasons that these women were able to achieve such great health benefits in just 12 weeks."

The study, published in The American Journal of Physiology, found following just 12 weeks of twice weekly practices, the women's condition improved and their blood pressure was reduced by 4 millimeter of mercury, which correlates with a 40 percent lower risk of stroke.

In addition, there was a positive development in relation to levels of substances vital to blood vessel function, including a 20 percent decrease in markers associated with arteriosclerosis -- hardening of the arteries.

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