EXPERTS at Glasgow University are to lead an eleven strong consortium in a £5 million drive to improve the health and fitness of football fans across Europe, it was announced today.
The aim of the European wide programme is to help male football supporters, including armchair fans, become more active, less sedentary and improve their diets in a sustainable way.
Twenty million fans attend top division football games each week across Europe and many more watch matches on TV. And the new EU-funded health project will work with top football clubs from across the continent to encourage fans to take up healthier lifestyles.
A Glasgow University spokesman explained: “The project, called ‘EuroFIT’ will attract men to lifestyle change through the personal connection and loyalty to the team they support. Groups of football fans will be encouraged to take part in a tailored fitness and lifestyle programme with their own football club, receiving tips about how to boost their exercise, sit down less and improve their diets.”
A Football Fans In Training scheme has been running in Scotland for the past three seasons through which fans compete against each other to see how much weight they can lose and by how much they can improve their fitness.
In the 2010-11 season alone, 412 men shed 2,300kg of weight and lost 2400 cm from their collective waist measurements.
Professor Sally Wyke, Principal Investigator and Deputy Director at the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at Glasgow University, said: “We know that men, particularly, are much less likely than women to use existing opportunities for lifestyle change. Football is a real draw for many men, and increasingly also for female supporters. The commitment many feel to their clubs and the opportunity to train with other fans to be healthier is a real bonus for them.
“This project is extremely exciting and ambitious - it could be adapted for all sorts of other groups, and lead to positive lifestyle changes in men, their families and wider social networks across Europe.”
Football fans will take part in an interactive programme led by coaches in the participating football clubs, and held in club grounds. Technological developments will be used to provide continuous feedback for monitoring progress which will help keep men motivated and active. This includes the new pocket monitoring device, being developed by Glasgow-based PAL Technologies Ltd, which will monitor how much time fans spend sitting and how much time is spent moving around.
One of Scotland’s leading nutrition experts, Professor Annie Anderson of Dundee University, has been appointed to advise football fans across Europe about the health benefits of changing their diet as part of a £5million project.
She explained: “There are three main areas of the study - improving physical activity, decreasing sedentary behaviour and improving diet,’ she said. ‘The areas I am interested in developing include guidance on portion size, the importance of eating breakfast, replacing unhealthy foods with low fat options, and increasing fruit and vegetable intake.
‘By working with football clubs we have the chance to make a real difference to what is otherwise a hard-to-reach demographic. Football Fans in Training proved to be a great success and we are excited to be part of this project, led by colleagues at Glasgow University, to broaden the reach across Europe.”