‘Walking to a healthier heart’

Participants in an inter-generational sports taster session in Ballymena. INLT 05-654-CON
Participants in an inter-generational sports taster session in Ballymena. INLT 05-654-CON

Older men in East Antrim will be walking their way to a healthier heart thanks to a grant from a national charity.

The Mid & East Antrim Agewell Partnership has been given £4,500 by Heart Research UK to fund its latest project “A Walking Man’s Game”, which aims to encourage men aged over 50 from Ballymena, Larne and Carrickfergus, to join in walking sports to improve their level of physical activity.

Figures show that one in five men in Northern Ireland will die from heart disease before the age of 75. Studies also prove that physical exercise can reduce premature death by 20 to 30 per cent and halve chronic disease.

The project will start in early April. Participants will attend 57 sessions of walking sports which will take place over the year, including three inter-council tournaments and three inter-generational tournaments where up to 30 young people may join in.

Each week, the men involved will receive an information leaflet to educate them about health issues such as smoking cessation, alcohol and weight management but with a priority on their happiness levels.

Walking tests will take place at the beginning and end of the project to monitor progress and see the health benefits of regular exercise, and 15 men will have mini health checks throughout the course to be used for case studies to show how the sessions have helped the effectiveness of preventing heart risks.

For further information, or to register for the programme, please contact MEAAP on 028 2565 8604 or email info@meaap.co.uk.

Caroline McKeown, MEAAP chairperson was delighted to receive the funding from Heart Research UK.

She said: “It is exciting to be working in partnership with Heart Research UK, to be delivering sports sessions tailored for older men across the Mid & East Antrim Area. With the support of the local council, we aim to help men get back into sports, enjoy locker room banter and provide valuable information including heart health checks on small changes they can adopt to make positive changes to benefit their heart health.”

MEAAP project development officer Deirdre McCloskey added: “We have found older men tend to not get involved in traditional activities, like luncheon clubs and arts classes, hence we wanted to pilot a men’s only programme which provided an alternative and combined physical activity with information and support in a relaxed atmosphere.”

Heart Research UK national director, Barbara Harpham, commented: “It’s great that the Agewell Partnership is trying to get these important messages across to men to think about their heart health by being more active. The risk factors for heart disease increase as you get older, so it is even more important that you make sure that you exercise, eat a healthy diet and watch that waistline.”