Much has been discussed about the drop off in physical activity levels as people age; over half of people aged over 65 do not reach Chief Medical Officer recommendations of 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Since 2011 however there has been a sharp rise in popularity for Walking Football, a sport specifically designed to help people remain active as they get older. This leads us to our July ‘One in a Million’, Spencer Pratten, captain of the England over 60’s walking football team who recently won the first ever Walking Football International match, beating Italy 3-0 at the AMEX stadium.
How did you get into Walking Football?
Playing veterans football was taking its toll injury wise. I then found out an old friend was involved at Arsenal’s WF Community side and decided to give it a go. From the first 5 minutes I was hooked and realised my football life had been extended indefinitely! I joined my local club Chelmsford City WF who are based at Melbourne Park and play most Tuesday’s from 10 until 12.00.
Spencer has held a lifelong affinity to football, something which he is now able to continue to pursue.
Without doubt walking football has given me an activity that fits my age and lifestyle perfectly. There are players in their 70s and even beyond benefitting from this fantastic form of the game. Ignore what you hear and forget what you’ve have seen. The only way you will get to see what the sport is really about is to actually play it.
Spencer is also very aware of all the different ways being active has enriched his life, it’s more than just about getting in shape:
There is no doubt that physical activity is beneficial in so many ways and is a huge part of health and wellbeing. The physical benefits are clear and tangible; weight loss, improved cardiovascular fitness, muscular and bone density maintenance and improvement amongst others. However it’s also the mental wellbeing. When anyone stops playing a team sport, they miss the dressing room, team colleague interaction, the laughter and chat that is an integral part of such sport. So many people I have spoken with at club, county, and now international level have expressed their relief at finding these long-lost feelings again.
It’s every football supporters dream to get to represent their country, an honour that walking football enabled Spencer to achieve:
It’s difficult to put into words my feelings when I was initially selected for England, and then, within minutes given the additional news that I was to be captain of the over 60s side to face Italy. To become England skipper was amazing. Walking into the England dressing room and seeing the shirts hanging up before the Italy game was quite a moment, especially as the red shirt with 6 on the back was the same as my West Ham hero Bobby Moore wore in the 66 final.
Spencer had the following advice for anybody else across Essex looking to be part of the 1 million lives changed through Sport and Physical Activity:
To anyone aged 50 or over , and that’s men and women don’t forget, who love sport in general, football in particular, or who simply wants a new challenge and a genuinely exciting and interesting way to prolong a sporting life, then walking football could well be the answer for them.