Do you love the beautiful game but find that old age or health problems have forced you to hang up your boots? Well no more, as there has never been a better time to get moving and back onto the pitch at one of the many walking football sessions hosted by the London FA on a weekly basis.
Dramatically increasing in popularity, walking football is designed to help keep a spring in your step, regardless of age or ability.
Lisa Pearce, CEO of the London Football Association, comments: “To enrich the lives of older people living in London through sport, the LFA, in partnership with PlayFootball, is launching walking football sessions across the capital to attract a diverse range of participants who might have given up all dreams of playing football. This version of game is open to absolutely anyone – both men and women of all ages – who isnterested in trying the sport. It’s so easy to join in, all you need is yourself and a pair of trainers to play, plus the benefits are huge.”
The LFA has ambitious targets to treble the number of participants playing walking football in London. It currently runs 11 weekly sessions across the capital in association with Local Authorities, Community Trusts and other organisations. And, with the help of its new delivery partner PlayFootball, a premium FA accredited, small-sided football brand, the LFA is set to introduce an additional 10 sessions, meaning even more playing opportunities for those wanting to give the sport a try.
So, why play walking football?
Improved health and wellbeing
London Sport recently published a report into the impact of walking football on participants’ health, with the findings demonstrating an overall self-reported improvement in wellbeing. The results also suggest that walking football has a positive impact on social wellbeing by helping participants to feel close to other people. Of those who participated in the study, 95% said they were thinking clearly often or all the time, and 96% said they were feeling optimistic often or all of the time.
Great social scene
Many people who play walking football are retired and as such, their social network has decreased. The sport therefore contributes massively to social wellbeing and gives you the opportunity to meet new people and develop close friendships. The inclusive and friendly nature of walking football sessions help to sustain participation.
George Harvey, Communications Officer at Age UK London, comments: “What we really love about walking football is the focus on the social aspect as well as playing football. The game gives older people something to look forward to, from exercise to companionship, and most sessions end with a cup of tea and a laugh.”
Through its walking football campaign, the LFA hopes to change the misconception of the sport being too gentle and slow.
Lisa Pearce, CEO of the London Football Association, comments: “Before trying walking football most people think it’ll be easier and less tiring than other formats of the game. However, once they attend their first session these concerns are alleviated.”
“It challenges you in different ways, and resisting the urge to run is a constant mental battle. With it being played on a smaller pitch and the inability to run for a loose ball, passes must be made with pinpoint accuracy to have any chance of success.”
George adds: “It’s also great for the brain as the quick decision making of football ensures it’s constantly ticking over. Walking football can reignite memories of younger playing days, and gives people the opportunity to connect with something they thought was out of their lives. It’s a really positive experience.”
A great workout
The LFA and PlayFootball are encouraging all ex-footballers to take up walking football as there are so many benefits for older people who probably don’t get as much exercise as they used to. However, it’s also a great way to enjoy football if you’ve never played before. Playing the game can improve joint mobility, increase energy, strengthen muscles, increase flexibility, aid weight loss, help with breathing and increase stamina.
Although starting for exercise reasons, it is the thorough enjoyment gained from the sessions that keeps regular players attending and separates walking football from other physical activity alternatives such as the gym, swimming and running. These activities lack a social element and the camaraderie experienced from being part of team.
Walking football sessions are held weekly across London with no match, membership or registration fees, meaning participants can turn up and play as and when they like. Prices start from £3.00 per session.
For more information on how to get involved, please visit: https://www.londonfa.com/players/recreational-football/walking-football.