Meet the Sunderland Cardiac Support Group that offers free rehabilitation and prevention

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The group offers support, rehabilitation and prevention sessions.

With 7.6million people in the UK living with heart and circulatory diseases, a Sunderland group is doing its bit to help Wearsiders affected by the condition.

Sunderland Cardiac Support Group which meets at Bede TowerSunderland Cardiac Support Group which meets at Bede Tower
Sunderland Cardiac Support Group which meets at Bede Tower

Started in 1993 by a group of men who’d had heart bypasses, who would meet for a coffee and a chat, Sunderland Cardiac Support Group is now more than 30 years old.

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Based at Bede Tower in Burdon Road, there’s weekly exercise sessions for attendees which aims to help patients recover from illness, while also acting as a preventative measure for over 60s who want help in staying fit and agile.

A registered charity, run by dedicated volunteers, the group is affiliated with British Heart Foundation and helps people aged from 60 to well into their 90s.

As well as the exercise sessions, there’s monthly socials at St Gabriel’s Church near to Sunderland Royal Hospital.

The group has around 40 people currently, but they’re hoping to welcome more through the door.

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Pam Reid from Hastings Hill had a heart attack 20 years ago when she was 58. Joining the group afterwards proved a great way for her to keep fit and socialise and today she’s one of the dedicated volunteers who help run the group, with Pam doing an admin role.

The group has fitness sessions three times a week The group has fitness sessions three times a week
The group has fitness sessions three times a week

“As well as being a way to keep fit and active, it’s a great way to meet people, too,” said Pam. “For single people and widows it’s a very social group and a lot of friendships are formed, with people going for coffee and on shopping trips outside of the group.”

A recent NHS grant means the group can offer its weekly sessions for free, with an annual group membership costing just £5 a year.

Trainer Sheila Stephenson has been leading exercises at the group for more than 20 years, with sessions using a range of equipment in a relaxed setting where people can go at their own pace.

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Members can take part in sessions at their own paceMembers can take part in sessions at their own pace
Members can take part in sessions at their own pace

“We work at intervals and the aim is to get people’s heart rate high, then for it drop, then high again and then a drop, making sure they get slightly breathless,” she said.

“The group started for heart patients and their spouses, but now we have a lot of people who come along for a workout. In the first few years, the majority of the group were men, but then it grew and grew with more and more women coming along.”

Bill Bowes is trustee at the group.

“Like many groups we have experienced a drop in numbers since Covid, going from 150 members to 40,” said Bill. “But we really want to get the message out there that we are here and anyone can come along.”

Sunderland Cardiac Support Group

Anyone can join the groupAnyone can join the group
Anyone can join the group

Weekly exercise sessions take place on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at the Bethany Centre, Bede Tower in Burdon Road.

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It’s open to cardiac patients as well as anyone wishing to improve their health.

The monthly social group meets on the second Thursday of the month from 2pm until 4pm at St Gabriel’s Church.

For more information email [email protected] or visit the website at

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