Three times a week for the past nine months, David George has ventured out to Greenbank Recreation Reserve in Logan to play Walking Football with a growing group of friends.
George, who had no previous experience in sport, said the low-impact version of the game has helped him regain his fitness and rebuild his social confidence.
“Walking Football has filled a void in my life. Before, I didn’t talk to people, I never went out of the house or associated with anybody,” he said.
“Now I’ve got friends, we have coffee after football three times a week, and I’ve got a real social life. It’s fantastic.”
George, 62, has resolved to make the most of his senior years after decades battling mental health problems.
“I was about 33 or 34, high up in a company, when I was diagnosed with a mental illness. I lost everything,” he explained.
Suffering from severe agoraphobia and depression, George was forced to quit his job. He was put on a disability pension and a course of heavy psychiatric drugs.
For 25 years he gradually retreated from the world, ballooning out to 140 kilograms.
“I never thought I was mentally ill, and then about four years ago they ran a lot of tests and found I had a lot of copper in my blood,” he said.
The copper toxicity, which he believes stems from his first job as an apprentice welder, was found to be the root cause of his mental health issues.
The revelation set George on the road to recovery. After the copper was removed from his blood, he started counting calories and shed half his body weight in just seven months.
But even after the dramatic weight loss, George noticed he was short of breath doing even the simplest of physical tasks.
“I had dropped an awful lot of weight, but losing the weight didn’t make me fit,” he said.
“I tried walking around the block but couldn’t get the motivation for it. Then I happened to see a Facebook post for Walking Football and thought, that sounds interesting.
“At the start, you think it’s just a bit of gentle exercise, but then you get into it and start moving a bit more and before you know it, you’re feeling really good.”
George is now a regular among the Greenbank Walking Football community, which celebrates two years together this month.
Established in October 2019 by Football Queensland Walking Football Officer Alan Templeton, the Greenbank group’s connection extends beyond sport.
“There are around 600 Walking Football participants in Queensland, but the Greenbank group are unique because practically all the players are from a non-football background,” said Tempelton.
“We began the program in 2019 in partnership with Logan City Council’s Live Well Logan initiative.
“At the first session, nobody turned up, but over the past two years we have grown in numbers and built a thriving Walking Football community.
“The players are more or less half men and half women, aged 52 to 80. They have all improved their fitness and expanded their social lives.”
George, who is one of Greenbank’s newest members, is living proof of the benefits of Walking Football.
“Although it’s too late in life to start a new career, I feel lucky to have this part of my life now,” he said.
“I’d never played soccer before, but I felt really welcome at Greenbank. There’s no competition or anything, it’s just a great laugh with lovely people.”
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