Watching classic football matches is beneficial to people with dementia, says NHS England Clinical Director

NHS England | July 2018 | Watching England at the world cup ‘good for your nerves’ claims NHS doctor

Senior NHS doctor NHS England Clinical Director for Dementia, Alistair Burns, has recently highlighted the benefits of watching football to our well-being. He said: “although fans may not feel it this week, football can be good for your nerves.  The beautiful game really can help your mind and body.” 

The NHS director emphasises that this is particularly true for older people as there are clear benefits from watching classic football matches like England’s 1966 world cup final victory, including keeping the brain active and stimulating memories.  “There is a positive link between watching classic football matches and keeping the mind active. For people in old age and dealing with dementia, rewatching matches can rekindle past memories, connect people with their past and keep the brain active.”

Several members of the nation’s golden generation of 1966 have experienced dementia, with winners Nobby Stiles and Martin Peters currently living with the condition. He is encouraging older people, particularly anyone with dementia, to watch replays of sporting events as a way of improving mental health and well-being.


According to the Clinical Director for Dementia, the power of sport can stimulate emotion which can be revived many years after the event. Emotional memory, which is one of two main types of memory in the human brain, can be more powerful than memory for personal events, so as people in later life relive exciting or tense moments, this can stimulate memories, potentially strengthening brain activity.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “Sport means a lot to many people in our society & that doesn’t have to change as we age. Whether it’s playing walking football or engaging in a more traditional activity such as bowls or swimming, there are lots of ways in which older people can continue to be ‘sporty’ – doing themselves no end of mental and physical good as a result.” (Source: NHS England)

The full,unedited news item can be read at NHS England