All across the UK, new walking sports teams are popping up, with the idea of getting older and less physically able individuals together enjoying competitive team sports without the high impact or strenuous level of activity that standard versions of the same games require.
Most of the sports have the same rules as standard versions only rather than running to get the ball or get to the next base, you walk. This essential means that one foot must be on the ground at all times. Many teams include some kind of ‘fine’ or ‘sin bin’ for participants who run instead of walk, to avoid some players running and thereby making the game faster than it should be. Other than that, the rules are usually the same.
The great thing about this type of sport is that it’s open to all – men and women can play alongside each other, less physically-abled individuals can also join in, and everyone will benefit from getting moderate exercise in a social setting.
“The benefits of these gentle forms of sport has seen increased positive health results, weight loss, rehabilitation progress and the opening up of social networks for the participants,” says Steve Rich, of Walking Football United (www.walkingfootballunited.co.uk).
Fancy playing football over 50? Find out more about the health pros and cons
Walking basketball or walking netball
As with any sport, walking basketball and netball improve fitness but these versions are lower impact than standard basketball and netball, which can see you doing fast turns, spins and jumps.
They’re mentally challenging as you have to keep your eye on the ball, and you also have to work together as a team to win.
Time violations are usually a little longer for walking basketball than they are in standard basketball, so, for example, walking basketball players get 30 seconds to shoot once they’ve gained possession of the ball, standard basketball states a 24-second rule.
Where? Walking basketball is available in various places around the UK, see www.walkingbasketball.org to find out more, as well as to sign up to be trained to be a coach yourself. You can download some rules of walking basketball here: www.heatcommunityfoundation.com. If you’re interested in training as a coach for walking basketball, go to www.facebook.com/walkingbasketball
You can find low-impact or gentle netball classes via www.iwillifyouwill.co.uk
If you enjoy using a bat to hit a ball, find cricket a bit boring or male-dominated, you might enjoy walking rounders.
Based on the game that was once hugely popular in the UK, walking rounders is an excellent way to get some cardiovascular exercise as well as build upper body strength. It’s also a sport where teams of different abilities can play together, ie adults and children. There aren’t as many teams as for the other walking sports, but you could try organising your own team.
Where? At UEA Sportspark, Norwich, Wincanton in Somerset. You could also try getting in touch with Rounders England - toolkit.roundersengland.co.uk - to find out more about rules to play by. They also have a senior squad.
Dribbling, passing and scoring remain important elements of the walking version of football but although you’ll still get a good workout by having to move from one end of the pitch to the other, you won’t exert yourself to the same extent as standard football nor will you run such a great risk of spraining a limb or bumping into other players.
“There are no slide tackles, offsides and contact is low-impact,” says Steve Rich, of Walking Football United - www.walkingfootballunited.co.uk. And the game is generally five or six a side, played on a smaller pitch, sometimes indoors. We also tend to have goals that are a lot shorter in height and some narrower than normal football goals.”
Silverfit is a charity that’s promoting walking football, among other exercises for those over 45 years old, and Andrew Roberts, 61, has already enjoyed the benefits of joining in: “Walking football is a great way to rediscover the sport I loved as a child, but at a more suitable pace,” he says. “It’s great fun, I feel half my age! It’s like football in slow motion, you have more time to think about it.”
Where? There are walking football organisations in London, Northumberland, Manchester, Bristol, Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Chelmsford and various other places.
Silverfit also runs Walking Football in Paddington and Burgess Park, London. You can also check www.walkingfootballunited.co.uk to find somewhere close to you or look for your local football association and then enquire whether they also run walking football programmes.