There are more than 15 million people in England living with a long-term health condition, and those people are twice as likely to be inactive than the rest of the population.
That’s despite the evidence that being active can help manage many conditions and reduce the impact and severity of some symptoms. David Green is proof of just that.
In 2000, after suffering with persistent back pain, he was diagnosed as having scoliosis. The consultant told him that at 27 he was too old to have surgery, but to carry on living a normal life. He also emphasised the importance of keeping active.
Twenty years on and David, a crane driver from Swinton, is a regular at the gym, but the impact of running means certain sports were seemingly off-limits. That was until he saw an advert for a new walking football session in Swinton, in October 2019, as part of Active Dearne.
“I love football, but due to my scoliosis, running for extended periods is detrimental. Walking gets rid of any of that risk. Even if you’re walking fast, you’re not jolting your body in the same way as you would if you run.
“I’d lived with it (scoliosis) and not known, and it was only when I went to see a chiropractor and I was really suffering. I couldn’t even do mundane tasks, and it was really painful.
“When I saw the x-rays it was a bit scary. The consultant told me all you can do is manage it through exercise and physio. I’d very rarely played football and any physical activity I’d done, I’d feel it for a few days after. I’d never connected it to anything other than muscle pain from being active. I go to the gym a lot and use certain equipment that helps.
“I didn’t think I’d get to kick a football around again. It was great when I started and put the ball in the net. There’s no other sound or feeling like the ball hitting the back of the net.”
David was among the first to be part of the walking football sessions created by Active Dearne Community Champion, Adam Kent. Such is the popularity, there are now two sessions a week, and David estimates he’s only missed two throughout the time they’ve been on offer.
Despite some perceptions, walking football is classed as moderate to vigorous intensity exercise, the level recommended by the Chief Medical Officer for health benefits. While David needed no convincing of the physical benefits of keeping active, he says the sessions provide a boost to his mood.
“I love this session. There’s no question it has helped me. I play twice a week, on a Monday and a Friday. On a lunchtime I’ll think, “Great, I’m playing football later.” It’s not just about the hours that we play, it puts me in a good mood for the hours before.
“I can do my cardio on a cross trainer if I want. But this is about the social and playing football, the physical side is just a bonus.
“After lockdown, I couldn’t wait to get back. It felt like a weight lifted when you speak to people you haven’t seen for a while. There was a good buzz about the first session back.
“I didn’t really know anybody when I first started. As the time has gone on, there’s a few familiar faces that I knew previously, but now there’s 20 new friends that I speak to.”
To support more people with long-term health conditions to be active, access the We are Undefeatable supporters hub.