Hongkongers love watching football games, and many are even willing to stay up late to support their beloved team. But in fact, apart from watching football on television, football itself is a physically and mentally-rewarding sport, that can not only train one’s physiques, but also broaden one’s social circle, bringing benefits to people of all ages, from the elderly, to the middle-aged, and the youth.
In recent years, quite a few places have seen children’s football lessons emerge. In Japan, there are football league matches dedicated to the 80-year-old ‘silver-haired generation’. That’s why there is never too early or too late a time to play football. Next time when you watch a football game with friends, why not try asking them to play a friendly match at a pitch, and make your body and mind healthier!
Upgrade your body and mind with football
Football is a sport that uses the entire body, it can not only train the coordination of the limbs, but also build up the strength and stability in the upper and lower limbs. At the same time, because of having to run up and down the pitch, football is also an aerobic exercise. Playing football regularly can also strengthen your cardiovascular functions, as well as help you lose weight, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, bringing enormous benefits to your body.
Apart from upgrading the body, football can also elevate your mind. Vigorous physical contact on the pitch, and the exhilarating and thrilling competition often release endorphins in the athletes’ brain, triggering emotions of excitement and joy, banishing feelings of anxiety and negative emotions accumulated in daily lives, and ultimately improving mental health.
Teaching your kids life lessons on the pitch
On the other hand, learning to play football is not just an exercise for the body for children, but also a life lesson. Football is a team game, whether it is a formal match of 11 players against 11 players, or a smaller team of 7 or 5, it’s still a game involving more than 10 individuals on your team and your opponents’ team. A football pitch full of players is definitely an arena for children to learn their social skills.
Playing and practising football with teammates, co-operating on the field, do not just raise the childrens’ ability to work together in a group, but also allow them to learn how to socialise well with one another, display their leadership talents and increase the cohesiveness in their friendships. Competing fiercely with opponents and leaving nothing behind on the pitch is also a good opportunity to learn to respect and admire others. As for how to be magnanimous in victories and unbowed in defeats; and share your joys with teammates after winning, and evaluate and assess the game with them after losing, these are even bigger life lessons.
‘Silver-haired generation’ can also play if their heart is in the game
Please don’t think football is a privilege of the young. The elderly, in fact, are equally suited to playing football. Some research have pointed out that the ‘silver-haired generation’ aged 65 to 75 are more or less on an even keel with the 30-year-old youth who have no habit of playing football when it comes to muscle strength and balance. Those ‘silver-haired generation’ who don’t play football face double the chance of falling down than the elderly who play football often at a similar age1.
Actually, playing football can build up the strength in the lower limbs, empower the body in its balance and increase the nimbleness at the joints. It can effectively prevent muscular atrophy and maintain bone density, as well as reduce the chance of injury from falling down. Moving around continuously at the pitch can also boost your heart and lungs, effectively prevent cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke, coronary heart disease, etc, undoubtedly bringing multiple benefits to the ‘silver-haired generation’.
Perhaps you may worry that the large amount of exercise during football will overwhelm the body of the ‘silver-haired generation’. But assessing your ability and doing only what you can, such as watching your movement and speed on the pitch often, reducing bodily contact and collision during competitions, increasing substitution quotas or allowing the same players to substitute multiple times, these are all measures that can allow the ‘silver-haired generation’ to save their stamina and play for longer. Taking Japan's ageing population as an example, a ‘Soccer for Life’ (SFL) League has been recently set up, dedicated to the above-80-year-old ‘silver-haired generation’ only, where the average age of players is 83.5, with the oldest being 932.
That is why age is not a problem, as long as you put your heart and strength into it, people of any ages are equally qualified to sweat and play on the field. Form a team immediately with passionate friends like you, and play football in the field!
1. NOW健康《銀髮族瘋足球 也可強化骨質》（only in Chinese）
2. Al Jazeera, 'For Japan’s ageing football players, 80 is the new 50'
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