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WALKING FOOTBALL MAKING HUGE STRIDES

8 May 2015

Walsall FC Community Programme team up with WHG for over-50s football sessions...

"DON'T run before you can walk.”

That’s the advice of Walsall Football Club’s Community Programme, who have teamed up with Walsall Housing Group (WHG) to provide a number of Walking Football sessions for men aged 50 and over.

Walking Football encourages Walsall’s older generation to rediscover their love for sport whilst experiencing the physical, mental and social benefits of regular exercise.

Martin Berry, Health Champion at WHG, helped initiate the scheme that he says has huge benefits on the participants.

“We’ve been doing a lot of work with preventative lifestyles, healthy eating and increased physical activity amongst older men in Walsall,” he commented. “Lots of the players have lost weight, their fitness is improving all the time and above all, they feel really good about themselves.

“For me though, the social aspect is equally important. It’s a great way for men to feel part of something whilst still take part in competitive sport.”

The small-sided games are played for two 15-minute halves with no running allowed and the ball kept below head height.

Up to 50 players have signed up to the joint initiative, with weekly sessions taking place at Blakenall Community Centre and Oak Park Leisure Centre in Walsall Wood

Many of the regular players had been inactive for over 30 years before dusting down their boots for a slower paced kick-around and the research into exercise in older men doesn’t make for pretty reading.

According to a report on later life by AgeUK, more than half of men over 65 are regarded as overweight (54%) and nearly a third considered obese (31%).

Ron Idis, 70, from West Bromwich believes the first step to a healthier later life is getting over the anxiety of exercise.

“Sport was the thing to do back when we were younger,” he said. “We didn’t have a television and even at work we were encouraged to join their various sports teams.

“But as the years go by you become weary of exercise. Am I fit enough to take part now? Am I going to be embarrassed if I go? But Walking Football is about playing to your own capabilities and feeling good about it.

“The adrenalin rush is unimaginable. We roll back the years, it’s great fun and the health benefits for guys like us are huge.

Ron is part of a generation that is reluctant to get active. For men aged 65 or over, the main reason given for not participating in sport is ‘poor health’.

David Charlesworth, 65, from Walsall Wood suffers from diabetes and sleep apnea and has been attending regular walking football sessions since October last year.

“I hadn’t done any exercise for 45 years. Nothing at all,” he admitted. “After a few sessions my knees told me I shouldn’t have done it but my head told me I enjoyed it too much.

“We don’t talk about our illnesses or symptoms. We just play.

“I feel like we are all teenagers again, running around after a ball, having a laugh and a joke, sometimes at our own expense.

“My breathing has improved, my general fitness is getting better and my body shape is definitely changing. Instead of a big fat ball, I’m a little fat ball!

“It just takes me away from the stresses of life. It’s everything to me.”

Walking Football has set out to banish the myth that you’re too old to get involved, welcoming players of all sizes, shapes and standards.

Weekly sessions will be starting here at Banks’s Stadium from May 13th with players aged 50 and over welcome to take part.

Watch a video of a Walking Football taster session at Banks’s Stadium...

For more information on Walking Football, contact Martin Berry, Community Health Champion (Men's Health), Walsall Housing Group on 0300-555 6666 or 07912-999 282.

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