Walking basketball

Keeping active and building connections through walking sports

In the aftermath of the pandemic, councils have been prioritising public sport and access to leisure facilities to address the decline in physical activity levels. Embracing this commitment, the West Ham United Foundation stands firm in its mission to keep surrounding boroughs' communities physically active. 

People who have a physically active lifestyle have up to 35% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and stroke compared to those who lead a sedentary lifestyle. Regular activity is also associated with a reduced risk of diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, as well as colon and breast cancer; not to mention the mental health benefits. 

Despite these numerous advantages, Newham emerges as one of the least active boroughs in the UK, with only 53% of residents meeting the NHS recommendation of 150 minutes of exercise per week. Additionally, a staggering 70% of adults in Newham grapple with obesity, surpassing the national average. Amidst various socioeconomic factors, poverty emerges as a leading risk factor for unhealthy lifestyles.

Walking basketball

Recognising the impact of socioeconomic circumstances, the West Ham United Foundation strives to counteract alarming health trends by offering free services like Active United. This initiative encourages physical activity within the community, aiming to bridge the gap in health and wellbeing. 

Active United has been a unifying force, offering lower-intensity access to team sports like football, provided four times a week across Newham. In a recent expansion, the WHU Foundation introduced basketball to its repertoire of free, inclusive walking sports. 

Dola, a counsellor from the borough, has found her true calling on the court. A regular since the sessions began in May, she has enjoyed the social connections just as much as the physical activity. 

“My line of work, with the close losses I have experienced, as you can imagine it can be quite isolating,” she recalled. “So, for me, joining the walking basketball was about looking after my wellbeing on more than one level.

Walking basketball

“I enjoy the opportunity to do an all-round exercise session. The other people are lovely. Coach Bisi is amazing and makes it fun for us. She keeps us motivated, mixes things up and is very supportive as well.” 

The Saturday sessions have not only enhanced physical and mental wellbeing but have also kindled a newfound passion for basketball in Dola, now a regular follower of the London Lions and the British Basketball League. 

“I have even started watching and enjoying live basketball on YouTube,” she continued. “I have never really been into exercise and have wasted money on gym memberships in the past. In the walking basketball, and for the first time in my life, I have found an exercise that I enjoy. They say that if you want to get fit, you need to find something you enjoy, well it is so true! 

“I never used to watch basketball and now I’m watching it and talking to colleagues about it. They might ask, ‘How was your weekend?’ and I would say, ‘Any weekend when I play basketball is a good weekend’.”

Walking basketball

To reward their commitment and passion at the sessions, the WHU Foundation organised a group trip to the Copper Box Arena to watch the Lions take on the Plymouth City Patriots, with tickets generously provided by the London Lions. 

“It was very rewarding seeing how much they enjoyed the game,” said WHUF Health Manager Hervé Bessières. “We even had a couple of participants come up to me before full time asking when we could come again as a group and watch another game. 

“We’re very excited to see how we can build on a partnership with London Lions. Currently, we’re exploring the possibility of having some of the London Lions players attend our sessions.” 

If you or anyone you know would like to become part of a team and enjoy sports at a more moderate intensity, do not hesitate to get in touch with us at [email protected] where you can find out more about attending one of our football or basketball sessions.