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Grannies Playing Soccer - Evidence for Longevity Studies

Lisa Cutforth - Saturday, March 13, 2010

Role of Exercise and Community in Longevity

Grannies in Polokwane (a small town in South Africa) have found a new lease on life as they have started to play soccer.

The World Cup organising committee is looking at the possibility of a soccer world cup for grannies.The Star reported on hundreds of elderly women from a township near Tzaneen, Limpopo, who had established a soccer league of their own.

Community worker Beka Ntsanwisi started the team three years ago to help older women exercise and give them a new purpose in life.She had been diagnosed with colon cancer and the doctor had told her she needed to exercise as part of her treatment.  She started to play soccer with two of her friends and eventually started to invite other women from the community to join in.  She said the women were bored and lonely and many of them were suffering with various illnesses.

The report said 35 women on the Vakhegula Vakhegula squad ranged in age from 40 to 83.  Playing soccer gave them a sense of being part of a community and made them feel better and they reported the exercise was very beneficial for them.  It also seemed to give them a reason to stick around or a purpose.  It appears they don't want to let their team down and they wanted to be around for the world cup.

The Star reported Nora Makhubela, 83, who had suffered six strokes, said kicking a ball around had given her strength she did not think she still had.  "I pray every day to God to keep me alive until 2010. I would really love to watch the games," she said.

The team are hoping to do a curtain raiser at the 2010 Soccer World Cup.  The possibility of this is being encouraged but the realities are still being explored.It appears there is growing evidence for Dan Beuttner’s Longevity Study, who found that exercise, being part of a community and having a reason to get up were all crucial ingredients if you wanted to live to 100.

How encouraging to have this sort of evidence fills me with hope and joy.  These women were not saying I can't go and play soccer because I have heart disease and arthritis and gout, they were saying I play soccer because I have heart disease, arthritis and gout and it makes me feel better.  I will play until I die!  One woman when asked when she would stop playing, she said, when she leaves this earth.

Game of soccer anyone?

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