The Walking Football club provides GPs with a non-medical referral option that can operate alongside existing medical treatments to improve health and well-being.
As well as being able to increase fitness levels, participants emotional health gets a boost as by turning out for regular games, service users meet new people, lifting their mood. They are encouraged to meet weekly exercise goals. One game of walking football is designed to last for an hour and the rules are identical to five-a-side football but with one major exception - if you run, you get a free kick.
Walking football has recently emerged as a popular variant of association football, targeting individuals over the age of 50 years. It has been increasingly referred to in the media in relation to its positive association with physical activity and subsequently health and well-being.
In order to engage local residents a community fun day was organised at Measham Leisure Centre. This event enabled foundations and links to be built with the Leisure Centre and Measham Parish Council who are based at the centre. Despite the weather the event was well attended and through conversations with local residents and volunteers from various organisations they identify some ideas/interests/skills which could turn into projects and services by working in partnership with local bodies in Measham.
After facilitating a meeting with the doctors from Measham Medical Unit, volunteers and staff from the leisure centre. It was established that Measham Medical Unit were very keen to link their patients with sources of support within the community. This would provide GPs with a non-medical referral option that can operate alongside existing medical treatments to improve health and well-being.
Through these meetings they not only raised awareness but secured support from the doctors at Measham Medical Unit, Measham Leisure Centre and local residents to develop a Walking Football club. In order to generate more interest, the doctors from the Medical Unit asked their patients if they would like to help set up/assist with the project. They also used a local newsletter to advertise for volunteers.
Walking Football project used Measham Leisure Centre governance resources to apply for funding. As a result, the doctors from the medical unit are able to direct their patients in the knowledge that this session is run safely by an establish organisation. Also, patients can take part or volunteer with the walking football club without the need to be formalised as a constituted group.
Dr Clare Swaebe, Measham Medical Unit - 'Social prescribing offers GPs an opportunity to treat patients holistically and has been used successfully in many surgeries. GPs are often aware that sometimes we provide medical prescriptions when the real problem is social such as loneliness or poor levels of fitness. At Measham Medical Unit we are keen to explore and develop social prescribing as much as possible and we are really pleased to have developed a good working relationship with our local VAL representative Ilir Demaj. Together we have teamed up with the local library and leisure centre and we are in the process of developing various local groups and services for patients to use.
As a practice, Measham medical Unit is happy to refer patients to the available groups and we will actively try and identify any suitable clients. We are happy to advertise voluntary groups and support the local community and it would be great to see more investment and development of these groups as we can see how much our patients will benefit. We have seen major improvements in many people's quality of lives from our recent art therapy groups and I am very much looking forward to the start of the new walking Football and the expansion of the overall social prescribing project here in Measham.'
Measham Walking Football club is held at Measham Leisure Centre every Tuesday afternoon and supported by their staff. Attendees contributed a nominal fee towards the hire costs of the football pitch (about £2) which enabled the long term sustainability of our project. Measham Leisure Centre has also agreed to the use of their bar facilities for refreshments.
As well as being able to increase fitness levels, emotional health gets a great boost as by turning out for regular games, service users meet new people, lifting their mood. They are encouraged to meet weekly exercise goals. One game of walking football is designed to last for an hour and the rules are identical to five-a-side football but with one major exception - if you run, you get a free kick.