The University of Huddersfield has launched research into the social wellbeing benefits of Walking Cricket, with the aim to endorse the activity as an effective social prescribing tool across Yorkshire and beyond.

Walking Cricket was developed as a new concept in 2019, thanks to a partnership with the University of the third age (u3a) and the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation (YCF).

The activity, endorsed by retired cricket umpire and Yorkshire icon Dickie Bird and English international cricketer and Yorkshire star Joe Root, makes cricket accessible to those who identify as older adults, are semi – retired or retired.

It tailors the traditional game of cricket to suit those with less mobility and by catering for different abilities, with an emphasis on social interaction and the opportunity for people to connect and build friendships.

Mir Bostan, Walking Cricket's oldest participant bowls a ball

Mir Bostan, 100 year old Walking Cricket veteran bowls a ball

It’s not just about the health benefits it’s the social side also – Walking Cricket provides an opportunity where people can meet with friends, have a cuppa and a natter – which is more important than the cricket itself. – Mac McKechnie, the founder of the first Walking Cricket side in Yorkshire – the Barnsley u3a Walking Cricket team.

Kendal James, Participation Manager for Yorkshire Cricket Foundation, said: “We’re delighted to be working in partnership with the University of Huddersfield and helping support older adults across Yorkshire and beyond.

“We hope the vital research carried out will highlight the health and wellbeing benefits of Walking Cricket for people with regards to quality of life, mobility, mental wellbeing and much more.”

Walking Cricket sessions are being delivered across 13 different hubs in Yorkshire with more than 400 people taking part, with a number of new groups set to start this year, and supporting people with a number of health and wellbeing benefits.

In recent times Walking Cricket has become a lifeline, particularly in the Covid-19 pandemic for potentially isolated older people – not only for its physical rewards, but its mental and social benefits.

Mac McKechnie, 72, the founder of the first Walking Cricket side in Yorkshire – the Barnsley u3a Walking Cricket team, said: “I love the inclusivity of Walking Cricket– it’s for everyone.

“It’s a brilliant activity to give gentle exercise to people and get them out and about and just enjoying themselves.

“But it’s not just about the health benefits it’s the social side also – Walking Cricket provides an opportunity where people can meet with friends, have a cuppa and a natter – which is more important than the cricket itself.”

a Walking Cricket group pose for a photo

A group of our Walking Cricket participants pose for a photo.

Dr Gareth Mossman from the Department of Sport Exercise and Public Health, at the University of Huddersfield, is overseeing the study.

As part of the research focus groups with Walking Cricket participants will take place across Yorkshire including with people from the Barnsley u3a side and the Todmordern u3a group.

Michael Astrop, lead of the Todmorden u3a Walking Cricket group, which has more than 30 participants, said: “All of our players know the benefits of Walking Cricket to both their physical and mental health and I asked them what they felt it has done for them in the eight months the group has been going and the response was overwhelmingly positive.”

The results of these discussions will form the basis of this research paper, with the aim of seeing if the activity could become a part of the Social Prescribing Framework.

Social prescribing is an approach that connects people to activities, groups, and services in their community to meet the practical, social and emotional needs that affect their health and wellbeing. It works particularly well for people who, have one or more long term conditions, who need support with low level mental health issues, who are lonely or isolated, and who have complex social needs which affect their wellbeing.

Derek Bisphram, a participant at the Todmorden u3a Walking Group, said: “Walking Cricket improves my balance, hand eye coordination, thinking speed, and communication skills.

“I can observe these improvements in others and realise it is having a positive on all of us.”

Gill Radford, another Walking Cricket participant, added: “Walking Cricket keeps you on your toes physically and mentally and this creates great opportunity for improving self-esteem and I have a lot of admiration for my team mates and opponents.

“In a world where us oldies find so many frustrations in not being able to do things at which we used to excel, Walking Cricket is a fun and inspirational game reminding us that there is hope!”

How to get involved in Walking Cricket

If you are interested in finding out more about Walking Cricket groups near you, please click here

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