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The role of walking sport in keeping people active

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Posted 26th July 2021

Tim Howells, Health and Wellbeing Support Manager for Public Health England (Yorkshire and the Humber) kicks off our week looking at the impact of walking sport, looking into the role it can play in the Covid-19 recovery.

For years we’ve talked about the benefits of moving more, and each year new evidence emerges on its links to other areas of health, whether that’s stress and anxiety in adults or learning and attainment in children.

And more recently the links that show being physically active reduces the risk of severe disease, hospitalisation or death from COVID-19. Never before has it been so important to take a whole system approach to physical activity and look at how all elements of society, all ages of people and all communities could benefit from moving more.

One of the many impacts of the COVID pandemic has been on physical activity. Evidence has shown that rates have fallen at the same time sedentary behaviour has risen. One of the knock-on impacts of this is the potential de-conditioning of older adults and those at risk of falls. But from a sport and physical activity sector there is something we could do. A recent piece of research from Dr Liam Harper at Hudderfield University has looked at how Walking Football could be considered to help with the re-conditioning of adults. This research has shown that 60 minutes of walking football has the same biomechanical loading as 25 minutes of running football and includes over 100 changes in direction. Further research has been done by England Netball and Loughborough University on walking netball which showed a 23% improvement in sit-stand ability.

But walking sport doesn’t stop there. There’s a walking sport offer for everyone, from walking cricket and walking hockey through to walking basketball and walking touch rugby.

In fact, including a diverse offer of walking sport should be front and centre of any local activity programme that aims to get adults more active and to support any re-conditioning associated with the pandemic. And that’s without even mentioning the other benefits of walking sport on things like emotional wellbeing and reducing social isolation and loneliness.

Later on this week, we’ll be looking at the walking rugby and walking football initiatives taking place as part of the Active Dearne project. We’ll hear from the people taking part, and the people making it happen.

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