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Without any doubt, COVID-19 outbreak has already evolved into a global issue and many of us need to work from home to avoid cross-infections. While we are staying at home all the time, our sports plan may also be affected, as well as maintaining a healthy lifestyle with reasonable walking distance.
However, there is always a clear correlation between doing regular exercise and strengthening of immunity, especially among the elderly. That’s why except for maintaining essential personal hygiene, it’s also important to do enough sports to fight against COVID-19. Besides the typical home exercises like push up, yoga or on-spot running, have you ever heard about a new form of sport called “Walking Football”?
This new form of sport, allows players to enjoy the fun of football without running or having physical contact with other players, which injuries do not occur easily. During the COVID-19 epidemic, walking football would be perfect for people aged 50 or above and those suffering from chronic illnesses. It’s moderated in intensity, which also helps improve the immunity system to combat COVID-19.
Benefit 1: Significant improvement in cardiopulmonary function
To understand the positive impact of walking football, YMCA invited Professor Stanley Sai Chuen Hui from the Department of Sports Science and Physical Education of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, to conduct a study on the “The Effects of Walking Football on Physical and Mental Health of Adults Aged 50-70 Years-old” recently.
By observing over 50 walking football players for more than two months, the study showed that the cardiopulmonary function of the participants improved significantly, and their resting heart rate dropped from 75.7 to 71.5. The walking distance of participants in a 6-minute walking test increased by 19 meters after two months of walking football activity. The study indicated that walking football can help improve the cardiopulmonary endurance of participants, as well as their blood oxygenation capacity.
Benefit 2: Gain muscle strength and coordination to prevent falls
The study also showed that participants’ lower limb balance in the single-leg stick-stand test with closed eyes has improved significantly – from 6 seconds to 10 seconds. Professor Hui explained that the turning and kicking movements of walking football use one foot only, so practicing walking football can improve balance and lower limb muscle strength.
Also, rapid walking during walking football is an aerobic exercise, which can effectively improve cardiopulmonary health and physical flexibility. In other words, walking football can help reduce the likelihood of impaired mobility and falls by the elderly.
Benefit 3 - Broaden social circles
In addition to physical benefits, walking football can also help older people regain the fun of playing football, explore a new interest and expand their social networks. Golden agers are inevitably concerned about the second half of their life. Before undergoing walking football training, 9.4% of the participants indicated that they were unhappy, but 66.6% of those unhappy participants became much cheerier after just two months of training. This clearly proves that walking football has a profoundly positive impact on golden agers’ mental wellbeing.
[How to work out?] Simple exercises at home to boost immunity
Mr. Wong Yu Ho, Physiotherapist I of YMCA, has designed a set of simple exercises based on the movements of walking football, allowing everyone to stay active and experience the pleasure of football even at home during COVID-19 epidemic.
1) Inside and outside dribbling on single foot
Hold the back of a chair with one hand to help balance yourself, dribble the football to work on inside and outside with both feet for a minute. Then increase the amplitude of lower limb stretching gradually. Use left foot only to dribble from inside to outside for a minute, then do it with the right foot only. After familiarising yourself with the movement, try to balance without holding the back of the chair, simply dribbling the football with your eyes closed.
2) Juggling on single foot
Stand with one foot and hold the back of a chair to help balance yourself, then juggle the football around the opposite foot, alternate your right and left foot. This movement requires a high level of coordination, and you are recommended to try it slowly.
There are other basic cardio and balancing exercises:
1) Star excursion
Hold the back of a chair with one hand to help balance yourself, use your left foot as support and lower your body, extending your right foot forward to the side and rear position respectively. Do this exercise for five times as one session, then alternate your right and left foot for two to three sessions. Pay attention to the foot that is used for support, as it should be parallel with your hip, knee and ankle. Try to keep the ankle stable and avoid twisting the knee.
2) Squat with transverse movement
Hold the back of a chair with both hands to help balance yourself, and imagine you are sitting on a chair to do a sit-down position. Your knees should not go beyond your toes, alternate your right and left foot for eight to ten times as a session, do two to three sessions. Pay attention to the center of gravity over the feet to avoid falling backwards due to losing the center of gravity.
You may also refer to the demonstration video to understand more on How to play walking football at home! (Video is only available in Cantonese)