The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
High emotional attachment to a sports team was associated with achieving 5% weight loss among men participating in a lifestyle intervention centered on professional football clubs in Germany, according to study data.
“An increasing approach to recruit men to weight-loss programs is to develop gender-oriented interventions taking men’s interests, environments and social roles into account. Several studies show that men are successful once enrolled in such an intervention. Less is known about key factors determining weight loss in interventions targeting men exclusively as most research interventions are conducted with mixed or women-only samples,” Benjamin Pietsch, PhD, a research associate at the Institute for Therapy and Health Research in Kiel, Germany, and colleagues wrote in study background.
In Germany, Football Fans in Training (FFIT) is a weight-loss program aimed at men that incorporates diet, physical activity and behavioral change. For the study, Pietsch and colleagues sought to assess the potential impact of participants’ emotional attachment to their favorite football clubs on attaining at least 5% weight loss.
The analysis involved all 2017 and 2018 FFIT intervention participants, totaling 791 men from 19 clubs.
The researchers assessed several participant baseline characteristics as well as changes in baseline health behavior characteristics at the end of the study as predictors of the 5% weight loss. Both analyses featured the Emotional Attachment to a Sports Team (EAST) scale, which “emphasizes several feelings towards the participant’s favorite sports club,” the researchers wrote, “and the intensity in which these connections are subjectively perceived.”
The intention-to-treat principle served as the basis for the analyses.
Data revealed that a higher baseline EAST score was associated with weight-loss success, as was higher weight-loss self-efficacy, lower vegetable consumption and higher carbohydrate intake.
The second analysis indicated the following were associated with 5% weight-loss success: EAST; an increase in intake of fruits, vegetables and whole-grains and increased steps per day; and a reduction in consumption of fatty foods.
The researchers wrote that the study adds to the understanding of FFIT, which they noted has become one of the leading examples in research and practice of how to successfully attract men to lifestyle interventions with promising results.
“With the EAST scale, the emotional attachment of football fans to their teams has been quantified for the first time and was shown to have a significant correlation to the participants’ weight loss,” the researchers wrote. “This mindset of the fans has been theoretically described as a key to attract men through their emotions before. While we showed a connection for the actual weight loss, future research could aim to quantify the attraction beforehand by using the EAST scale or another quantifiable measure. This would lead to a generalizable, scientifically based approach to use emotional connections to different settings or interventions in an attempt to reach more men.”