As we all know, it's important for older people to remain fit and active in order to lower their chances of any medical conditions. Taking up a new sport as a hobby can be a great way of getting exercise and meeting new people, which also helps combat loneliness. Today's post looks at one sport in-particular; walking football.
Walking football has been created to help older people get back into the beautiful game. It has really taken off across the country. This post will take a brief look at the history of the sport, how to play it, the benefits and how you can get involved.
The History of Walking Football
Walking football was first introduced by the Chesterfield FC Community Trust programme in 2011 to try and improve the health of older people in the area. However, it was a few years later, in 2014, when the sport came to wider public attention.
Barclays used walking football as part of their Digital Eagles TV campaign. Another campaign from the banking company showcased the story of Steve Rich, an ex-Sunday League footballer who was forced to quit after a car accident, and his website which aims to connect all the walking football teams across the country.
Since the sport went mainstream there has been an influx of new teams around the country. In fact, it was reported in 2016 that there were more than 800 registered walking football clubs in the UK. This was more than double the number of clubs that existed the previous year.
Even the big clubs of the Premier League took notice, with Manchester City launching their own team in 2015. Walking football has become a recognised sport across the country, with endorsements coming from the likes of Sir Geoff Hurst, Alan Shearer and Harry Kane.
The rise of the game has led to several conflicts about the actual rules, with the only standardised rule being that you're not allowed to run. The game is played on a smaller pitch, both indoors and outdoors, and can vary between a five-a-side and a seven-a-side match.
Running or even jogging is banned and if this is ignored then the other team will receive a free kick. Slide-tackles are also prohibited, and the ball must remain below head height. Kick-ins replace the traditional throw-ins, there is no offside rule and all free-kicks are indirect.
Any penalty kicks that are taken should use the one-step rule, whilst there is a sin bin timeout for any three same or variety of rule infringement.
What makes it such a good idea?
Walking football gives older people the chance to keep on playing the sport that they love. No matter what physical condition they are in. The slower pace to the game reduces the amount of stress and exhaustion on the body, but can still give you a good cardiovascular workout - and as previously reported, it may even prevent dementia.
John Croot, Chief Executive of the Chesterfield FC Community Trust told Lifeline 24:
A lot of clubs have come on-board since the first game here in Chesterfield a few years ago. Even though you are only walking it tends to end up with a bit of a speed walk, although you always have to have one foot on the ground, and you get a good sweat on. It’s a really good way of getting active and keeping fit."
Walking football also gives you the chance to socialise with other football fans and people of a similar age group. Agreat way or preventing elderly people from becoming lonely.
Mr Croot added: “It is worth going down to your local club and giving it a go. You can play at your own pace. It’s a very friendly environment and it’s a great place to meet new people and make new friends.
“For many of the elderly people who play here in Chesterfield it's more of a social thing than anything else. They get to meet their mates and just have a good time and catch up with each other.”
Walking football can be great for your physical and mental well-being. Joining a team can allow you to relive your former glory days of Sunday League football. This will no doubt bring great personal satisfaction and a sense of self-belief.
Alongside this, you'll also be given the chance to meet new people who are also fans of football. This can greatly improve your social life, even outside of training and matches. You may meet-up with your new friends at the pub or at the local football match.
Of course, all of the above will help fight-off any feelings of loneliness that you may have. Having something to do each week and people to see can be a life-changer for older people.
Physically, the game can also have plenty of benefits. According to the Walking Football Association (WFA):
The WFA have also stated that the sport can be effective in the treatment of mild hypertension and that it can produce high aerobic activity with marked improvements in fat oxidation and aerobic power.
Join Your Local Team
There are walking football clubs across the country. So there is a huge chance that there is a team just down the road from you. The Walking Football United website has a great 'find a club' feature that can be used to find a team for you.
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Note: This article was originally published on 16/02/2018 and updated on 28/06/2021 with current information.