Yesterday after work I convinced my 11-year old to go for a jog with me. I didn't want to burn him out or push him too hard, so I thought we'd go at a nice easy pace for about a mile and a half - "let's see what the kid's got", I thought to myself. I upped the ante by telling him if he wants to bring his soccer ball we could stop at the park on the way home and kick the ball around.
Now, this is a kid who plays club soccer, which means he's playing soccer almost year round, a couple times a week (or more). So I assumed a 15-minute jog wouldn't be too much for him. Well, that was the understatement of the week!
Example #1: The soccer player was in better shape than the moderately fit guy.
While I jogged along at a moderate pace (probably about 9:30/mile but I wasn't timing it), my son was dribbling a soccer ball - zig-zagging back and forth across the path, stopping and starting, doing fancy moves, sprinting ahead of me before stopping to juggle the ball, etc. It was ridiculous! I would have been completely gassed if I had been doing what he was doing.
Granted he's 11 and I'm... much older. But still - that kid is in great shape even compared with other 11-year olds. Playing a high-intensity sport like soccer, consistently - week in and week out, is a great way to stay in shape.
Example #2: Playing soccer was much harder than running.
Once we had run our loop and ended up back at the park, we started kicking the soccer ball back and forth with each other. Kick the ball, trap the ball when it comes to you, dribble once or twice before kicking the ball back to the other guy, run a few steps so the other guy can pass to a moving target, cut back when you receive it and pass with your other foot, etc. etc. It was a lot of short bursts of energy - no more than a couple-few seconds at a time.
After 15 minutes of goofing around kicking the ball back and forth, I was far more tired than I had been after jogging. My heart was racing, I was covered in sweat, and I was panting for air. Not to mention I was using more muscles with greater intensity and range of motion.
If I had to choose which exercise would burn more calories and give me the best full-body workout for a given amount of time, I'd say playing soccer beat running yesterday - and by a large margin.
- Chris Butterworth
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