As you reach your fifties it is important to stay active, fit and healthy – but for many it is hard to find the motivation, time or desire to exercise. This is a problem that the government is trying to improve as they are pushing to increase the popularity of walking football in the UK.

The NHS Choices website recommends that adults 19 and over take part in two and a half hours of physical activity a week, which for men aged 50 and over means that taking part in an hour of walking football goes a long way in helping them to reach their weekly exercise goals. One game of walking football is designed to last for an hour and the rules are identical to five-a-side football but with one major exception – if you run, you concede a free kick!

The concept of walking football was engineered by Age UK and the National Older Men’s Network, and recently launched by Blackpool Council in a bid to improve the fitness levels of men and women aged 50+. A pilot session was attended by none other than former Blackpool player and Leeds United manager Jimmy Armfield, who even at the age of 79 declared he couldn’t help but give it a go himself.

This new variant on the beautiful game is making its way around the whole of the UK as more people are warming to walking football, with help from a national bank’s TV campaign.

The health benefits of walking football

There are many benefits to staying fit and healthy, whatever age you are, and playing a physical game such as walking football can help players:

  • build strength
  • improve muscles
  • increase your core stability
  • lose weight.

As we age, many of us struggle with problems such as falling over as we find it hard to be steady on our feet, but playing a game such as walking football can help to improve your balance.

As well as being able to increase your fitness levels, your emotional health gets a great boost as by turning out for regular games you’ll meet new people and lift your mood.

Chief Officer at Age UK Blackpool, Terri Sawkill had the following to say about the new game:

“Many older men suffer from a lack of confidence, which is why many of them shy away from engaging in physical activity or a game of football with younger people. This game encourages them to be active without worrying about causing an injury.

“The biggest reason older men don’t engage in physical activity is a lack of confidence. This is about getting them out and meeting others in the same boat.”

Clubs are popping up all over the UK as walking football is attracting more attention. You can get involved with a game to try it out to see what you think by contacting a nearby club, and it is a great way to improve your health and have fun at the same time. Saga Health has created a guide to walking football which contains handy links to the new clubs which spring up in celebration of this exciting new game.