10 inspiring stories of keeping active after heart problems

A heart attack or surgery can knock your confidence and make the prospect of exercise daunting, so getting back to the activities you love seems impossible. But it can be done. Here are 10 inspiring stories of getting active again.

1. Get green fingers – again

Ruth RogersRuth Rogers, 70, loves gardening, and used to manage three allotments and a large home garden before experiencing heart failure. It was Paul Peacock’s column in Heart Matters about his clever solutions to help him keep on gardening inspired her, and help her come up with a way lessen the load. 

2. Eight mountains on a bike

Martin Woolcott - Cycling with an ICD

Martin Woolcott, 51, didn’t let his abnormal heart rhythm hold him back from exercising. He was fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) and pedalled the Maratona dles Dolomites last year, cycling up and down eight mountains. 

3. Going the distance

John Roberts - Long distance walkingJohn Roberts, 75, had a heart attack seven years ago. He’d always enjoyed walking in the beautiful Welsh countryside and following his rehabilitation he was thrilled to be able to walk the Offa’s Dyke trail. He found the rain, mud and the “steep bits” challenging, but that didn’t stop him hiking 90km. 

4. Football forever

Chris Courtenay WilliamsChris Courtenay Williams, 71, has been playing football since 1977. Following a heart attack in 2011, he lost confidence in his ability and feared he’d have to quit his favourite game. Six weeks later, he was back on the pitch, where he still plays with team-mates who are 50 years younger than him. 

5. 98 is the new 50

Gladys Grimstead Five years ago, Gladys had a pacemaker fitted to deal with her heart rhythm problem. Rather than slowing down her ‘pace’ of life, it gave her a new lease of life. She’s taken up tai chi and now, aged 98, she’s taken up cycling as well. She says she doesn’t feel older than when she was 50. 


6. No running away 

Sean Doyle out runningSean Doyle, 47, collapsed while running as the result of a blocked artery; thankfully his GP and nurse were running in the same park and were able to perform CPR. A story in Heart Matters inspired him to take it up again and he can run up to 10km again and is still running through his trainers every 600km. 

7. No sitting still

James Cadman practising trial bikingHeart valve surgery encouraged James Cadman, 52, to ‘seize the day’. He wanted to try something he’d never done before, so he took up trail biking, riding motorbikes that have no seats so you have to stand up all the way – so not entirely getting back in the saddle!

8. For the love of spiders

Carl PortmanCarl Portman, 51, isn’t your typical tourist; he travels to remote jungles to see his beloved tarantulas. He didn’t let his arrythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) keep him away. He was fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to protect him from life-threatening heart rhythms and now his biggest problem is going through airport security. 

9. A sign of bravery

Michelle Houston for the women and heart disease sectionMichelle Houston, 27, experienced a mini-stroke aged just 23. The surgery left her with a scar where they’d opened up her breastbone. At first she was shocked by it, but she took up running again and now regularly does half marathons for charity. With the support of her family and partner, she now views her scar as a sign of bravery. 

10. The tough get going

Colin Mallen on his bikeColin Mallen, 52 found it tough getting back to exercise after coronary heart disease on top of life-threatening heart rhythms and unexpected complications. Support from his family and partner Shirley helped him through it and, this August, he cycled from Newcastle to London to raise money for the BHF.  

More useful information