Sports for the Over 50's: Walking Football

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Posted on: 21 June 2016 by John Bell

Looking for a way to carry on playing sports as you get older? Or are issues with physical disadvantages, fitness or health problems stopping you enjoying sport? Why not check out 'walking football', the increasingly popular way for more people to get involved in football.

The Euros are well and truly underway, and as always with major international competitions they have ignited interest and participation in the beautiful game all over the UK and Europe. While football may be an ideal activity for a variety of ages across the country, for many of us (in particular those over 50 years of age) the intensity and high-impact nature of the game means it’s often out of reach, particularly when played competitively. However, for those of us who want to get involved in playing football but suffer from mobility issues, low fitness levels, heart conditions, etc. the answer may lie in the ever-expanding game of ‘walking football’.

Walking football has grown hugely in popularity in the UK, particularly since the widespread publicity from television features all over the country. A variant of association football, walking football is aimed at keeping people over 50 involved in the game and keeping them fit and active. It’s particularly effective for those who are unable to play the traditional, high intensity version of football, for reasons such as a lack of mobility or underlying medical conditions.

The sport can be played indoors or outdoors, making it an ideal choice for year-round exercise. In order to facilitate the sport being played by those who are physically disadvantaged (and to avoid injury), running is against the rules of the game, and slide tackles are banned entirely. If a player runs at any point while playing, a free kick is conceded to the other team. Originally, no goalkeepers were used in walking football, although this now varies from league to league. The ball is never allowed to be kicked above hip height, and in the outdoor version a full-size football is used, whereas a size 4 futsal ball is used in the indoor game. The size of the pitch can vary, meaning it’s suitable for a variety of different locations. However, the width of the pitch is usually between 15 and 30 years, and the length will normally vary from 20 to 40 yards.

Since coverage by Sky Sports in 2011/12, and a subsequent feature in a television advert for Barclays Bank in 2014, the sport has grown to something of a craze in the United Kingdom, being played by older people and those at a physical disadvantage all over the country.

So while you may not be able to pull on the famous England shirt and represent your country at a major international competition, you can still enjoy the beautiful game even if you’re not quite a young and fit as you used to be. For more information on walking football, or to find a club near you, check out the Walking Football United website. 

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