Active stories: Heather Barker

Heather Barker is 70 years old and lives in North Shropshire and was diagnosed with multi-joint osteoarthritis in her 50's

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She started to get pains in her knees but being busy with family life, she didn't take much notice of it at first.

‘I'd always been active but around 50 it all started to go downhill. The pain I was in affected my mobility, and I slowly put on weight and gradually became less active. I remember my husband used to stride ahead of me on walks and I needed to lean on a wall or sit on a bench to catch my breath on some of the longer ones we did.

She ended up seeing a consultant who told her she needed a knee replacement but that she wouldn't be able to have the operation until she was 65 which was still eight years away.

‘I carried on but I was relying heavily on Ibuprofen to get me through the day and my weight had ballooned. I ended up having my first knee operation aged 62 and I had physiotherapy to help me recover from that. It was my physiotherapist who suggested I start an exercise referral programme at my local leisure centre.

She ended up going to her local gym with her husband and join a programme that was fully tailored to her needs post-surgery. The trainer there gave me the confidence that I could become fitter and was really patient with me. She made me feel I wasn't too stupid, too old or too fat, all of which were things I felt at that time.

Over a period of three and a half years Heather went on to lose five stone and now has the motivation to keep exercising on her own. She has walked 5K every single day for the last two years and she still attends the gym regularly. 

‘I knew I needed to get moving and slowly I became fitter and more confident. I felt so much happier and as a result started to take much more care of myself and my appearance. I'd had the best care from the NHS and my physio but I knew that it was up to me to keep the good effects of that going. 

Most people think that after the six weeks or so of physio from the NHS that’s it. It is important to realise that is just the beginning. It is up to you to keep mobile and improve on what the professionals have done for you. No one can do that only you.

I bought myself a set of floor pedals and every time I sat down for a break or a drink out came the pedals. Believe me it works, it becomes addictive trying to do more than last time. My greatest find though was a trainer at the gym who motivated me every time I saw her.

I hope my story inspires you to get up, get out and improve what you have been given by you NHS. Nobody is going to do it for you, you just have to decide today is the day I'm going to start.’