Walking football initiation and maintenance in older adults: a mixed-methods investigation

Rachel Cholerton

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


For older adults, physical activity (PA) is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and benefits include higher mobility and less healthcare needs (Age UK, 2018; Guzman-Castillo et al., 2017; Hambrook et al., 2020). Despite this, there are still a large number of older adults in the United Kingdom (UK) who are inactive (Sport England, 2020a), and research suggests few older adults maintain PA long-term (Kendrick et al., 2018; Van Der Deijl et al., 2014). Interventions to increase PA in older adults include sport, the benefits of which include managing mental health conditions, and reporting less sedentary behaviour in older adulthood (Eime et al., 2010; Gayman et al., 2017). Adapted sports such as walking football have also gained popularity (Lloyd, 2019), and understanding the experiences of those participating could inform design of accessible sport interventions to increase levels of older adult PA. A mixed-methods programme of research was undertaken. Studies one and two explored initiation and maintenance experiences of 55-75 year-old walking football players. Influences related to initiation of walking football included sporting identity, player values, and empowering players to cognitively and socially develop in older age. Influences related to maintenance of walking football included awareness of walking football benefits, positive walking football culture and availability of maintenance resources. Informed by study one and two findings, an empirically grounded survey was developed in study three to investigate differences in walking football initiation and maintenance influences, across key respondent characteristics in 50-75 year-old adults (chapter six). Further analysis investigated what characteristics and influences contribute to players returning to walking football after the Coronavirus-19 pandemic. Analysis found significant differences in social influences in initiation and maintenance across the number of health conditions. Regression analyses found walking football culture and maintenance resources (e.g. scheduling sessions) during maintenance contributed to the intention to continue playing after Coronavirus-19 pandemic restrictions were eased. Findings highlight the complex nature of older adult walking football participation, but show support for encouraging social interactions in those with health conditions, and creating a positive walking football culture and encouraging older adults to increase maintenance resources, in order to continue walking football play. The thesis provides club, coach and sporting body recommendations, and recommends that future research focuses on exploring the walking football culture in more detail, and the implementation of maintenance resources in aiding older adults to successfully maintain the sport.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Sheffield Hallam University
  • Breckon, Jeff, Supervisor, External person
  • Quirk, Helen, Supervisor, External person
  • Butt, Joanne, Supervisor, External person
Award date6 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Walking football initiation and maintenance in older adults: a mixed-methods investigation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this