Scheme helps football fans choose healthier lifestyles over a pie and Bovril

The 12-week free programme targets men aged 35-65 with a 38-inch waist or a 40-inch stomach. Picture: contributed
The 12-week free programme targets men aged 35-65 with a 38-inch waist or a 40-inch stomach. Picture: contributed
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A scheme to improve the fitness of football fans has had a long-term positive impact on their health.

The Football Fans in Training (FFIT) initiative was first piloted eight years ago in a link-up between The SPFL Trust, University of Glasgow and 13 professional clubs, with the goal of training men to help them achieve significant weight loss. Since then a highly-regarded women’s programme has been launched.

This research demonstrates the significant health, social, and economic benefits behind FFIT. More importantly … it changes people’s lives

NICKY REID SPFL Trust Chief Executive

Long-term research presented at Hampden Park today will show that when it came to weight loss the 488 participants, who started the original trial three-and-a-half years ago continued to hold off much of their baseline weight, maintaining a 2.5 per cent drop.

Men also continued to be more active, ate increased amount of fruit and vegetables and improved their self-esteem during FFIT participation.

The 12-week free programme which was initially launched in 2011/12 targeted men aged 35-65 with a 38-inch waist or a 40-inch stomach.

The scheme aims to have participants achieve at least 45 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days of the week.

Men and women get weekly exercise sessions, including football training at their respective professional club for 12 weeks and follow a personal pedometer-based walking programme.

Dr Cindy Gray, Senior Lecturer in Health Behaviour Change on behalf of the University of Glasgow, said: “FFIT has been shown to be 
successful in delivering the long-term weight, physical activity and dietary improvements that are essential to help people reduce their future risk of ill health.

“The fact that we found very little difference between men who took part in our research deliveries and those that took part in standard deliveries of FFIT, means there is no reason to believe that people taking part in current and future deliveries can’t achieve the same excellent long-term results.”

Some of the participants have now set up their own football teams and play against other FFIT sides.

SPFL Trust Chief Executive Nicky Reid said: “This research demonstrates the significant health, social, and economic benefits behind FFIT.

“More importantly, as we’ve seen at today’s event, FFIT changes people’s lives. Behind every one of the thousands who have now been involved, there are countless stories as to how FFIT helped get folks to a place where they would want to be, physically and emotionally.

“We’re grateful to the Scottish Government for their ongoing financial support for FFIT, and to the University of Glasgow for the detailed work which underpins the programme.”