A FORMER heart consultant and a nurse have helped hundreds of patients to improve their health – through a unique outdoor exercise.

Retired cardiologist Ted Rose, aged 56, and his wife, Elizabeth Kerley, aged 54, are qualified Nordic Walking instructors.

This form of fitness walking uses two poles to provide support, balance and improve posture.

In a pioneering project, the couple provide free lessons for people with medical problems from Halton’s 17 GP wellbeing practices.

So far, almost 200 patients including victims of strokes, heart attacks and people recovering from surgery, have learnt the technique.

Their oldest student, a 90-year-old woman who had lost confidence, now enjoys exploring Runcorn hill where she used to play as a child.

Many say it has given them a new lease of life.

Father-of-four Mr Rose, from Helsby, who used to work at Halton Hospital, said: “On a personal level, I have had neurological health problems and it has been very beneficial to me.

“There is undisputed evidence of health benefits of regular exercise from muscle toning, weight control and the feel good factor through to the longer benefits on blood pressure, cholesterol and heart problems, strokes, dementia and breast cancer.

“Exercise is extremely important for people getting over heart attacks and heart surgery.

“We both have a medical background so we understand what people’s problems are.

“Being out in the fresh air and the social benefits of friendship inspires people.”

Runcorn grandad Roy Barlow, aged 78, of Beaufort Close, who had a stroke in 2007, said: “The camaraderie of a group of people who are not too well helping each other in mind and body is great.

"It’s group therapy at its best.

“It has given me a lot more self confidence moving around. “

Mr Barlow, who has five grandchildren and two great great grandchildren has been diagnosed with degeneration of the lower spine.

He added: "Surgery was an option but not a good option.  I decided not to have it.

"I find that Nordic Walking gives me exercise that is in control and not overdoing it.

"We have exercises, then a short walk to loosen up. Then we do another walk up a little hill and get together at the end to wind down."

Retired Widnes teacher Joyce Broster, in her early 60s, who has arthritic knees, said: “I was finding it very hard and painful to walk.

“I used a walking stick before I started. I don’t need it now.

“I can walk further.”

Structured classes are held at Pickerings Pasture in Widnes and Runcorn Hill.