The health benefits of playing football and the importance of exercise and social contact for healthy ageing are well established, but few older adults in the UK take enough exercise. Football is popular, flexible in format and draws players into engrossing, effortful and social exercise, but the physical demands of play at full speed may make it unsustainable for some older adults. Restricted to walking pace, will play still be engaging? Will health benefits be retained? Will physical demands remain manageable? This pilot study aims to investigate: (1) the experience of older adults playing walking football every week, is it sustainable and rewarding, (2) the intensity and locomotor pattern of walking football, (3) the scale and nature of walking football health benefits and (4) possible cognitive benefits of playing walking football through measures of processing speed, selective and divided attention and updating and inhibition components of executive function. 'Walking football' and 'waiting list' groups were compared before and after 12 weeks of one-hour per week football. Walking football was found to be engaging, sustainable for older adults and moderately intensive; however, selective health and cognitive benefits were not found from this brief intervention. Highlights Walking football is a lower impact but authentic form of football that enables older players to extend their active participation. Walking football is enjoyable and moderately demanding and may be a sustainable form of exercise for older adults. Health and cognitive benefits to playing walking football were not found.
- Journal Article