You Little Beauty!

You Little Beauty!

by Angie Steel

Love the beautiful game but a little past your fitness peak? Walking football is here to save the day with all the great social and fitness benefits, just at a slower pace.

Walking football is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK, not least because it offers participants a host of health and fitness benefits.

The game – which is basically a walking pace version of traditional football – was launched in 2014 and has grown rapidly in a short time, with more than 800 registered clubs now found across the UK. There are also plans for a walking football World Cup.

But the great thing about the sport is you don’t have to be a champion to get involved, and Brighton & Hove Albion’s charity, Albion in the Community, has been leading the way in Mid Sussex with walking football courses at various venues since October 2014.The sessions form part of the charity’s Back to Exercise programme, which is run in conjunction with Mid Sussex Wellbeing and aims to attract people away from the sofa and into physical activity.

Each Thursday at Hurstpierpoint College a growing number of players take part in training and head coach Ian MacDonald is convinced the inclusive nature of the sport and the opportunity for participants to socialise are the main reasons behind its rise in popularity. “For many of the guys it may be the only time they get out of the house,” said Ian.

Ian went on to say, “The players range from their late 50s to their early 70s. It’s so adaptable, meaning the game can always be played at a fair level for those involved. We’ve even brought in a few non-footballers who have slowly built up their understanding of the game.”

Walking football player Paul Faith is a regular at sessions. The 56-year-old had a heart attack in 2013 and was told to start attending the gym by his GP. However, life on the treadmill wasn’t for him – he says he found it “boring and repetitive”. Not so walking football. “I’ve seen so much improvement in myself,” he said. “I used to have to sit down every few yards when I went walking around town.”

But as Paul explained, it wasn’t initially that easy to find a local session. He said, “It was difficult because at the time there was very little going on in the area with regards to walking football. But after my local session started it really took off .”

Teammate Ken Bartram (right) is also a firm believer of the benefits of walking football. The 62-year-old, who packed up mainstream football during his mid-20s after suffering a knee injury, was keen to emphasise the psychological impact of being part of a team again. “The social side of the game is brilliant because they are a good bunch of lads,” he said. “We have a great laugh together!”

For more information and to take part in Albion in the Community’s walking football sessions call 07876 898045 or email backtoexercise@albioninthecommunity.org.uk