One of the worst aspects of getting older is no longer being able to play the sports that we once loved. But while some high-impact sports may be completely out of the question, others can easily be adapted for older adults. One such sport is walking soccer, which changes the rules of regular soccer to reduce the stress it puts on the body.
Whether you used to be a soccer star or are only a budding aficionado, walking soccer can provide a surprising variety of health and social benefits if adapted right.
Learn the Rules
Walking soccer can be played either indoors or outdoors, and utilizes a smaller field than regular soccer. Teams generally include five or seven players each.
The primary and only consistent rule associated with walking soccer is, unsurprisingly, that running isn’t allowed — players must have one foot on the ground at all times. Even slight jogging will result in the opposing team receiving a free kick. Additional features of walking soccer vary, but often include the following:
- Slide tackling, kicking the ball above head height, and throwing the ball are not allowed. Players use kick-ins instead of throw-ins.
- There is no offside rule, so players do not need to worry about their location on the field when the ball is being passed to them.
- All free kicks must be indirect, meaning that the kicker cannot score a goal directly, but must instead pass to another player.
- Players that break the rules three times are subject to a sin bin timeout.
- All penalty kicks must follow the one-step rule.
Know the Benefits
Walking soccer can improve everything from your physical and mental health to your social life.
Walking soccer is a fun cardio workout that will get your heart rate up without putting too much stress on your body. According to England’s Walking Football Association, health benefits may include:
- Reduced risk of:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Resting heart rate
- Blood pressure
- Postural balance
- Blood sugar levels
- Bone density
- Body strength
A number of mental health benefits are associated with walking soccer as well. Older adults may experience reduced stress, improved self-esteem, and personal satisfaction, especially if they are returning to a sport they thought was no longer feasible for them.
Older adults tend to be more socially isolated than younger populations, and this isolation can have a number of negative consequences, including depression, high blood pressure, long-term illness, cognitive decline, and even increased risk of mortality.
Walking soccer combats loneliness by providing the opportunity to get out of the house and engage with others on a regular basis while participating in an activity you actually enjoy. This change of scenery, increased social interaction, and enhanced sense of purpose can cause significant gains in quality of life.
Those who do not wish to or cannot physically play walking soccer can still benefit socially by participating from the sidelines. Serving as a team manager, game organizer, or even just as a fan can help seniors stay mentally active and socially engaged.
Hit the Field
Walking soccer has long been popular in England, and is slowly gaining ground in the United States as well. While states such as Washington and California have statewide associations, other locations may have smaller-scale groups. If you aren’t able to find a walking soccer league in your area, nothing is stopping you from creating one of your own. Who knows what a few pick-up games may lead to?
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