How to make lasting connections through walking sports

Dr. Claire Jenkin, walking sports expert at Just Get Active

 

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There’s a lot of research to show that one of the biggest motivators for older adults to play sport, as well as one of the strongest beneits, is the socialising that comes along with it.

Some of you may want to play with your current circle of friends, meet new people or even make new friends. Although there has been limited research on the social aspects of walking sports, preliminary data on walking basketball shows that, ultimately, people play with the goal of having fun and meeting new friends.

Getting started with walking sports

It can be difficult to take that first step and join a new group. This isn’t just true for walking sports, but is relevant to all activities, in any facet of life, for people of any age.

You just have to think about what you need to make that first step. What will spur you on?

Are you the type of person who can walk into a session and just ask to join in? Would you prefer to find out more information about the group and speak to someone on the phone before coming along? Or do you sit somewhere in between the two?

The hardest decision is working out whether you want to play in the first place. If you’ve decided that you do want to play and are waiting to make the first move, you’re a lot closer than you think. You really are ready to derive all the potential benefits that walking sports can give you.

So, if you’re an internet user, why not search for local sessions using the Just Get Active Activity Finder in the area and have a chat to organisers near you? This is the best way to find out more about walking sports and see whether their sessions suit what you’re looking for. If you want someone to meet you before you start, so you’re less nervous about walking into a group environment by yourself, just ask. Your coach will be more than willing to help out, as they really do want the best for you too.

 

Making friends for life

I worked on a study into the barriers to participation for older adults. We found that over-50s often stop playing sport when their existing friends do. But what many people don’t realise, is that there’s a whole new circle of potential new friends to meet and engage with, just a walking sports session away. The fun, social side shouldn’t be underestimated. Many walking sportsters, whether they’re playing, volunteering or baking for the team, create new bonds and develop friendships that last a lifetime.

In support of this, another study found that over-50s believe that playing community sport could positively influence the social health of adults. They even credit the positive, family-like atmosphere. One player hearteningly said, “I think the club sort of becomes your extended family.”

So, participants can strengthen relationships through sport, or even develop new friendships through playing walking sports. Most sessions will have a social gathering (usually involving tea and cake!) after the exercise, which is the perfect opportunity to put yourself out there if you feel comfortable, find common interests and share sporting memories with your teammates. One day, you may even end up socialising together away from sport, too.

 

Finding the right team for you

It is important to remember that all sessions are different — just like people are. Therefore, if you join a group and don’t enjoy it quite as much as you thought you would, that doesn’t mean walking sports aren’t for you!

Some clubs may emphasise fun, while others might focus on competition and some may try and incorporate the best of both worlds. So, feel free to try out different clubs until you find the right fit for you.

 
If you want to make new friends, and think you may enjoy playing walking sports at the same time, what are you waiting for? It’s time to Just Get Active.

To find a local club near you, check out our Activity Finder.