This year's Women's World Cup has had the most coverage since female football took to the limelight. Whilst the gap between male and female sports is still monstrously big – not only the coverage, but also the pay cheques - women in the world of football have certainly taught us a thing or three.
Regardless of whether or not you know the rules or have never played before, 5-a-side football is the latest craze and you may be surprised at just how good it is for you.
Research detailed below has proven that 5-a-side is more beneficial for your health than other more popular forms of fitness, so strap on your shin pads and bend it like Beckham.
Playing 5-a-side is better for you than 11-a-side football or running, according to a study by the University of Copenhagen. With the varying intensity, sprints, turns and tackles, 5-a-side works at strengthening your muscles and core, alongside all that cardio. FIFA have also researched the intensity of the female game over the last few years, finding an increase in endurance and speed. A 60-minute game can also build stamina and agility.
Solitary gyming can be demotivating, especially when you're so aware you're exercising. 5-a-side allows you to have fun, make friends and socialise without being so aware you're exercising. It doesn't have to be aggressive, a simple kick-about without the competitive edge is enough to burn and calories and tone up.
All sport improves mood, by releasing endorphins that stress and act as a natural antidepressant. Your body also releases the chemical serotonin, which works to improve mood. Not to mention the release of adrenaline keeping you energetic and satisfied, and the rise in body temperature allowing your muscles to relax. Phew!
We've spoken about the stress relieving aspect of five-a-side, and this is incorporated into the mind exercise too, but the sport also increases your level of what is called 'flow'. According to 5-a-side.com, 'flow' means you essentially submersing yourself in the activity, 'getting into the flow'. This includes becoming completely focused and engaged in your exercise.
You would think playing 11-a-side would increase stamina and fitness to a greater extent, but research has shown it's actually 5-a-side that is better for you.
The smaller pitch means technique is needed, exercising the body and mind. Your movements are much more focused and intense, which boosts your heart rate and gives you more contact with the ball, too.