Walking Football: An Overview…
Walking football is different to regular Association Football in many ways and is aimed at the over 50’s age group. Many tournaments are now catering exclusively for the over 60’s age group.
It has very specific rules that outlaw all running and allows no contact between players. Over-head height restrictions and indirect free kicks ensure that the sport is played safely with full consideration to the participants’ age.
Teams are either 5 or 6-a-side. As a result of these rules, games are played at a slower pace, often on state of the art 3G artificial grass pitches, thus reducing the threat of pain, discomfort and injury, with players briskly walking through matches. This allows people who have loved the sport all their lives to once again safely get back to playing and also introduces the sport to people who perhaps have never considered playing before.
The Benefits to Walking Football…
Walking football offers a multitude of health benefits to older people such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke while improving blood pressure. Positive changes in postural balance, blood pressure and resting heart rate, lowered cholesterol, improved blood sugar levels, bone density and improving reactions, whilst slashing the odds of suffering from type 2 diabetes – all indicators of general good health.
Walking football is an excellent way of staying fit and healthy. Studies have shown it can be effective in the treatment of mild to moderate hypertension and that it can produce high aerobic activity with marked improvements in fat oxidation and aerobic power. Importantly, benefits are felt whilst deriving enjoyment, which makes people far more likely to exercise than perhaps the perceived chore of having to just ‘exercise regularly.’
There are also many psychological and mental health advantages to playing walking football – namely high levels of personal reward and satisfaction with reduced levels of stress and exertion while playing, despite working physically hard.
Walking football also gives an often isolated section of the community the chance to become involved in something they really enjoy, make new friends, form lasting relationships with like-minded people and generally improve their social circle and overall quality of life, often making them feel less isolated and more a part of the wider community.
There are also significant benefits for any older people involved in a walking football environment or club who perhaps don’t always want to play but can engage in other aspects of the sport or club such as administrative roles, team manager, organising fixtures etc or sitting on a management committee of the club or even just being involved in a social capacity for the good company and friendship. All these things can help to keep older people mentally active and give their lives a very real sense of purpose and belonging, the value of which cannot be overstated.
As we get older, many of us struggle with our balance, strength, stamina, weight and worst of all confidence and self-esteem levels but walking football has the potential to make a significant impact in all these areas, building body strength, improving muscles, core stability and hopefully losing some of the weight usually gained during the ageing process. As well as being able to increase fitness levels, emotional health gets a great boost too for a person involved in walking football, not least self-confidence and self-esteem.