Children who played football twice a week and received health education at the same time became fitter and more health aware than their peers who did not play football, shows new research. (Photo: Bo Kousgaard, Centre for Team Sport and Health)

Football makes schoolchildren happier

Student health improves when they play football twice a week as part of the school curriculum, shows new study.

Schoolchildren who play a particular kind of football on small pitches a few times a week have lower blood pressure and less body fat. Simultaneous health education throughout the games means that they are also more knowledgeable about health, shows new research.

These are the findings of the project FIFA 11 for Health, conducted by researchers at the University of Copenhagen, with the support of Nordea Foundation.

"We now have evidence that a very specific kind of activity is working and the kids even like it," says co-author Peter Krustrup from the Centre for Team Sport and Health, at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

The results are published in the scientific journal British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Kids love the program
Sports clubs have an important role in promoting health and fitness in schools, and it is not limited to football. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Over 500 Danish students age 10 to 12, from nine different schools participated in the project.

Some of the students played football twice a week while being taught about health. After 11 weeks, 72.4 per cent of the football-playing students were positive about the project. Only 4.8 per cent were negative and the teachers were also mostly positive.

Krustrup believes the project was especially successful as they collaborated with FIFA and The Danish Football Association.

"I hope that our project will inspire other sports associations to introduce more sporting concepts in schools. Our research suggests that these associations can improve the quality of school sports and it doesn’t necessarily need to be football," he says.

Danish Football Association trained teachers

Coaches from the Danish Football Association worked with Krustrup and his colleagues to train the teachers at the participating schools in a particular kind of football where the children play on the small pitches and receive health education throughout the game.

Students were divided into two groups by drawing lots. One group attended the football sessions as part of their school curriculum for 11 weeks. They played football twice a week--in teams of three on small pitches and completed different training exercises. At the same time, they were exposed to health messages. 

The second group of children continued their regular schooling with no special football sessions.

Football players became healthier

After the trial, Krustrup and his team measured the children’s body composition--the percentages of fat, bone, and muscle in the body--blood pressure, and physical fitness, as well as their general well-being and knowledge of health.

The children who played football improved their blood pressure and body fat significantly compared to the children who had not played football. And the positive improvements were particularly significant in children who had not previously taken part in sport association activities.

The children were not only physically healthier--the combined health education also worked.

The football-playing children knew much more about health at the end of the trial than their non-football playing peers and their general well-being also improved.

The FIFA 11 for Health project will now be rolled out to 400 primary schools in Denmark, with plans to extend the project to other countries.


Read the Danish version of this story on

Translated by: Catherine Jex

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