A study led by Lorena Lozano-Sufrategui, senior lecturer in the School of Sport found the key to keeping men, aged 50 and over, physically motivated was the opportunity to play sport within a group of their peers.
The research group which was made up of 14 men, eight over 50s and six younger, were all were classed as overweight or obese and were all taking part in a football-led weight management programme.
“Older men, whose weight is considered unhealthy, are a concern for public health policy,” Lorena explained.
“This population presents a higher risk of developing poor lifestyle behaviours, such as reduced physical activity levels and unhealthy diets; which can result in an increased risk of developing non-communicable diseases, including coronary artery disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.”
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The study found men felt their age was a barrier to joining in organised sport which traditionally has a competitive element. But the opportunity to have a ‘kick around’ with their peers let them enjoy the inclusive elements of sport such as team spirit.
This was reflected in the bond which developed between the group. These relationships in turn led to many of the participants playing more football games with other men’s health services organised by the programme, and organising other social events together as a group.
“Our findings suggest that programmes were effective when they fostered social support,” said Lorena.
“The social opportunities arising from the programme provided a source of enjoyment that was especially valued by men who were hesitant about their ability to play sport. Many felt this opportunity was more valuable than the type of sport actually played.”
Inclusivity was also a key finding in the study, with the group particularly enjoying the ability to modify aspects of the game.
“One participant enjoyed playing football with a rugby ball, adding a bit of fun to the game and meaning that it made no difference whether someone was good at football,” Lorena explained.
“Another participant, who was in his 70s and had a degenerative disease, enjoyed the chance to play walking football.
“A key skill identified was the ability to adapt the physical activities and sports to the needs of the group.”
The programme, run by ABL Health aims to help men lose five per cent of their body weight through sessions including 60 minutes of physical activity and 30 minutes of education on health education.
SPORT IN THE COMMUNITY
The report has been published in the Sport in Society journal.
Sport lifestyle programmes called Healthy Stadia have become increasingly popular in the bid to tackle a lack of physical activity in older men.
Healthy Stadia is a european network which supports sports clubs, stadia operators and governing bodies of sport to develop health promoting policies and practices.
Go to leeds.gov.uk to find out more about community sport in Leeds and the support it can give sport clubs.