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Benefits of football on physical and mental health ahead of the Euro’s

As football fever sweeps through ahead of the 2024 UEFA European Football Championship, We Are Undefeatable is shining a light on the various benefits football brings for people living with long-term health conditions. Whether it’s playing at home or being part of a local team, everyone can enjoy the positive impacts of the beautiful game.

Aside from being a treasured sport, football can be a powerful tool for physical and mental well-being, whether through traditional play, football-themed home exercises, or local walking football programs. The sport can be adapted for everyone, enhancing coordination, balance, and fitness. Additionally, the social aspect of playing with a team or partner can create a sense of belonging, boosting mental well-being.

We Are Undefeatable case study, John, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2012. When John was told he had Parkinson’s, one of the first things he thought was how it would affect his ability to play the sport he loved. However, after meeting James, who shares his condition, they sparked the idea to form the Northern Lights walking football club, where they relive their playing days at a gentler pace. Speaking of his passion for football, John says “for me, walking football takes me back to my best playing days, where the one thing that got me through everything was football. We set up our weekly game between the Parkinson’s guys and the stroke Recovery Team. This group has been a ray of light shining in our lives. We want to put a smile back on faces of people with Parkinson’s and remind them that there’s still a life to live.

Annie Booth took up walking football on a whim after her Parkinson’s diagnosis. Diagnosed at just 47, it came as a shock, but after coming to terms with it, Annie sought ways to boost both her physical and mental health. She had never played football before, and her main mission was to fight off the ‘apathy beast,’ a symptom of Parkinson’s. Soon after, she joined a Liverpool-based Parkinson’s support group, where they introduced her to Walking Football. Since then, she went on to become the sole female player in the England Parkinson’s Walking Football team. Now, Annie has managed to assemble the Parkinson’s Pioneers, the first-ever walking football team catering exclusively to women living with the condition.

Discussing the benefits of staying active with Parkinson’s, especially through activities like walking football, and the Euros, Tim Morton, Physical Activity Programme Lead at Parkinson’s UK, said:

“The more physically active you are, the easier it is to live well with Parkinson’s. Being active is so important, as it can help manage symptoms, maintain health and lift your mood. It can make you feel good inside and out. Walking football is not just about being physically active, it can also have many social benefits too.

“We are always inspired by the walking football community and the skill and positivity they bring to the beautiful game. We hope Euros 2024 will encourage more people living with Parkinson’s to find their local group and give it a try.”

For those inspired by the excitement of the Euros, We Are Undefeatable is sharing easy-to-follow football-themed exercises and tips to help people living with long-term health conditions get moving and embrace the benefits:

1. Dribbling Drills

Set up a small course in your living room, back garden, or local park using cones or household items from cups and mugs to toilet rolls! Practice dribbling a ball through the course, trying hard to focus on control and coordination.

2. Passing Practice

Using a wall, partner, or family member, practice passing the ball back and forth. Aim for a specific spot on the wall or target area with your partner to practise your accuracy and control.

3. Join a Walking Football Team

Through The Walking Football Association, Age UK and Parkinson’s UK, there are many local walking football teams throughout the UK. This is perfect for those looking to stay active, no matter what your activity level is. Find a local team and join to enjoy the game and be part of a team.

4. Set Goals

As the Euros kick off, try setting daily or weekly fitness challenges inspired by your favourite players or teams. This could involve replicating the number of touches they made or even try your favourite football moves. Remember, every bit of movement counts towards staying active!

5. Involve Family and Friends

Encourage your family members or friends to join your football-themed exercises to add fun and keep you motivated.

 

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