A modified version of soccer tailor-made for older Australians will be promoted nationally over the next two years.
Football Federation Australia launched its “Walking Football” initiative, which will be implemented by member federations across the nation, on Monday.
Walking football is a modified version of soccer played socially by small teams and designed specifically to help older players, who may have limited mobility, to enjoy the game.
It has specific rules that ban running and contact between players. Teams are five or six-a-side and games are played at a slower pace, often on artificial grass to reduce injury risk.
FFA launched the program in Perth after being announced as a recipient of funding from the federal government’s $23 million Move it Aus Better Ageing grants program, which aims to increase physical activity among older Australians.
Walking football is becoming popular overseas, with some 800 clubs and it has been piloted in Australia over the last year, FFA says.
“Walking Football offers a great low-impact, team-based exercise, providing physical and mental health benefits and social connectedness for older Australians,” FFA CEO David Gallop said.
FFA would partner with Active Ageing Australia to raise awareness of the program, Mr Gallop said.
Funding sport and fitness for seniors
Twenty-seven organisations will receive grants from the Move it Aus fund, Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Mr Wyatt said in a joint statement with sports minister Bridget McKenzie.
“No matter what your age and no matter what your stage, we’re encouraging all Australians to embrace the philosophy of ‘Movement for Life’,” Ms McKenzie said.
She said other grant recipients would provide a range of fitness opportunities, from exercise classes in remote areas to other modified sports including golf and netball.
“Getting out and about through innovative new sports will help us score healthier, happier futures,” Mr Wyatt said.
He says while sport was fun, it also had benefits including improved heart health, weight control and reduced risk of falls, while also fostering social connections.
Only one in four Australians over 65 currently meet the meet guidelines of 30 minutes of activity a day.
Benefits of Walking Football
- Improves fitness
- Reduces stress
- Reduces risk of cardio vascular disease
- Improves blood pressure
- Improves balance and strength
- Improves reaction time
- Boosts self-esteem and confidence
(source: UK Walking Football Association)