Soccer is not only fun but it’s also a gateway to better health and life skills that last a lifetime.

Mike Hudson, director of coaching and player development at Soccer Nova Scotia, says despite being one of the cheapest, easiest sports to get involved in, soccer can have tremendous benefits for overall well-being.

Unlike an anaerobic sport like hockey which requires short, intense moments of exercised sandwiched between periods of rest, soccer is a non-stop endurance workout where the best players can still keep reserves of energy ready to rush forward when needed. It’s no surprise that soccer players often feel a sense of euphoria after games similar to what long-distance runners achieve.

“Soccer is a continuous running game. It’s an aerobic workout that still requires explosive bursts of energy, so it can give tremendous health benefits. You get a physical high after you’ve done it which is beneficial,” Hudson said.

Studies have shown that soccer players frequently have increased heart health, lowered body fat and increased muscle tone and Hudson says soccer can help train the mind to be more focused and determined, two things which can have an enormous life impact, especially for younger players.

“Students who follow a training program do tend to do better in school because they learn commitment and responsibility and you’re also teaching them discipline as well,” Hudson said.

Kids aren’t the only ones getting in on the action of course, as adult leagues are finding more people interested in making soccer part of their healthy lifestyle.

“One of the biggest growth areas we’ve seen is women over 35 – often they’re soccer moms who see the health benefits of the game and want to get out there and play,” Hudson said.

The social side of the sport can bring people together both in friendship and understanding.

“It’s a sport that gives you the ability to develop teamwork and it encourages you to become accepting of other people and their way of doing things. It’s a melting pot sport — you can throw people from different backgrounds into it and they all have to work together on the field,” Hudson said.