Running just two times a week can make a difference to your fitness

Running just two times a week can make a difference to your fitness

Physical activity on a weekly basis is a necessity for a healthy life, yet a recent survey revealed that one in three British women do not do enough physical activity per week. This is putting themselves at risk of heart disease and stroke.

Ahead of the UEFA Women's EURO 2013, kicking off on 10 July in Sweden, England midfielder Rachel Yankey has teamed up with players from the other participating teams to form the ‘Heart Team’, to promote exercise and a heart-healthy lifestyle amongst women and girls to help prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD), which causes 28 per cent of premature deaths amongst women in Britain.

The ‘Heart Team’ is the official team of the ‘Make a Healthy Heart Your Goal’ campaign, which is organized jointly by the World Heart Federation, UEFA, the Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation and the Swedish Football Association to encourage women and girls to be physically active to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Meet the ‘Heart’ of England’s women’s national football team

Having qualified unbeaten for EURO 2013, England is one of the strongest contenders to win this year’s tournament.

In the lead up to the tournament, Rachel gave us her key tips to stay fit and healthy all year round: “Obviously playing and training keeps me very fit but I do some extra work in the gym. We have a special programme given to us by the England medical staff so I have to stick to that outside of game-time”. Along with the regular training sessions and her daily exercise regime, Rachel attributes a healthy diet as one of the main ways to stay fit and healthy. 

She says: “If you like sport, I’d suggest taking up your favourite sport or joining a team. That way you can stay fit while you’re having fun. Or if you can’t commit that much time maybe just go for a run a couple of times a week. And obviously try and eat healthily, too.”

Football for Rachel is a vital part of her daily life, but for all women and girls it can help reduce the risk of CVD responsible for the deaths of one in three women worldwide. We asked Rachel how she got involved in football: “I was an Arsenal fan when I was younger and I used to love watching Ian Wright. I love the way he played, the way he scored goals and the way he always looked like he was having fun on the pitch. That’s what inspired me to become a footballer.”

Women's football was one of the biggest success stories of London 2012 and it’s now the third-most popular sport in terms of participation, with 252,000 women across the UK playing every month. The survey revealed however that more than two million women in the UK are just below the threshold for a healthy level of physical activity: they could reduce their risk of CVD if they set themselves the goal of doing just one hour more of playing sport per week.

Rachel has joined the ‘Heart Team’ to inspire women and girls across Europe to do that bit extra and include physical activities like playing football in their everyday lives. “When I’m not playing or training I’m out in schools coaching young kids. I love being involved in football every day”.

"It is wonderful to see players from the competing teams joining together to encourage women and girls to lead an active lifestyle and practise sports such as football. Football is an empowering and unifying force and UEFA believes that every girl should have the opportunity to play football regardless of skill or talent", said Karen Espelund, Member of the UEFA Executive Committee and Chairwoman of the UEFA Women's Football Committee.

“Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease and stroke, is estimated to kill 23 million people by 2030. Physical inactivity is one of the leading risk factors for cardiovascular disease accountable for 3.2 million deaths globally and the upcoming UEFA Women’s EURO provides a great opportunity to inspire women and girls to kick-start heart-healthy behaviours, to avoid paying the penalty of an inactive lifestyle”, said Johanna Ralston, CEO of the World Heart Federation.

England will play their first match on 12 July against Spain and end the group against France six days later. Whilst they enter the tournament unbeaten, the English team face some tough competition.  At EURO 2009 England were defeated by Germany in the final. For the first time since the Women’s EURO’s inception in 1984, all of England's matches will be broadcast live on national TV - the BBC has acquired the TV rights in the UK.

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