Weight management for overweight and obese men delivered through professional football clubs: a pilot randomized trial

Cindy M Gray, Kate Hunt, Nanette Mutrie, Annie S Anderson, Shaun Treweek, Sally Wyke

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40 Citations (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: The prevalence of male obesity is increasing, but men are less likely than women to attend existing weight management programmes. We have taken a novel approach to reducing perceived barriers to weight loss for men by using professional football (soccer) clubs to encourage participation in a weight management group programme, gender-sensitised in content and style of delivery. Football Fans in Training (FFIT) provides 12 weeks of weight loss, physical activity and healthy eating advice at top professional football clubs in Scotland. This pilot randomized trial explored the feasibility of using these clubs as a setting for a randomized controlled trial of 12 month weight loss following men's participation in FFIT.

METHODS: A two-arm pilot trial at two Scottish Premier League football clubs (one large, one smaller), with 103 men (aged 35-65, body mass index (BMI) ≥27 kg/m²) individually randomized to the intervention (n=51, received the pilot programme (p-FFIT) immediately) and waitlist comparison (n=52, received p-FFIT after four months) groups. Feasibility of recruitment, randomization, data collection and retention were assessed. Objective physical measurements (weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, body composition) and questionnaires (self-reported physical activity, diet, alcohol consumption, psychological outcomes) were obtained from both groups by fieldworkers trained to standard protocols at baseline and 12 weeks, and from the intervention group at 6 and 12 months. Qualitative methods elicited men's experiences of participation in the pilot trial.

RESULTS: Following a short recruitment period, the recruitment target was achieved at the large, but not smaller, club. Participants' mean age was 47.1 ± 8.4 years; mean BMI 34.5 ± 5.0 kg/m². Retention through the trial was good (>80% at 12 weeks and 6 months; >75% at 12 months), and 76% attended at least 80% of available programme delivery sessions. At 12 weeks, the intervention group lost significantly more weight than the comparison group (4.6% c.f. -0.6%, p<.001) and many maintained this to 12 months (intervention group baseline-12 month weight loss: 3.5%, p<.001). There were also improvements in self-reported physical activity and diet, many sustained long term.

CONCLUSIONS: The results demonstrated the feasibility of trial procedures and the potential of FFIT to engage men in sustained weight loss and positive lifestyle change. They supported the conduct of a fully-powered randomized controlled trial.

Original languageEnglish
Article number121
JournalThe International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2013


  • overweight
  • obesity
  • physical activity
  • diet
  • behaviour change
  • men
  • gender
  • masculinities
  • intervention
  • sports club


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