A walking rugby group in the city is having life-changing impacts on those who play. Weekly sessions run by Coventry Rugby Club’s community team in conjunction with CV Life are proving popular with people over 50 looking to stay active and sociable.
But for one man in particular it has been a lifeline which has helped him recover after suffering from a heart attack.
Mark Harrison was hospitalised just before Christmas in 2021. The health scare was a wakeup call which left him deciding he needed to get himself in shape.
So in January of this year, he went to his first walking rugby session and hasn’t looked back since. Just under a year on, he has been discharged from the hospital, he’s stopped taking his heart medication and he has lost just under three stone in weight.
The sessions are non-contact and designed to encourage light exercise and fun. But the social element is also important with players enjoying a hot drink and a chat before and after.
Mark said: “After the heart attack I decided I needed to get fit and sort my health out. I hadn’t played rugby for 35 years, but I thought walking rugby would be the ideal.
“It’s helped my physical health, I’ve lost a lot of weight, but it’s also helped my mental health. After the heart attack I was fed up, but since taking up walking rugby I’m healthier, I’ve met a lot of new friends.
“It’s brilliant, I’ve had a great time. I’ve gained new skills and even discovered I still have muscles I thought I’d lost years ago!
“For anyone thinking about coming along that is unsure I’d say just give it a try, you have nothing to lose. There are people here aged 75 to 55, we have men and women who come and play, lots of people who have never played rugby before, so go for it.”
Sam McNulty, who is Coventry Rugby’s community development officer, spoke of the impact the programme has had.
“Mark is someone, like lots of people in his age group, who might not have had the opportunities to exercise before, so he’s come in and it’s really given him a new lease of life,” Sam said.
“It’s a non-contact sport so it’s inclusive to all, even people with no experience of rugby – we have a lot of people who come that have never played it before.
“We also try to put a lot of emphasis on the mental health side of things, being sociable but also having lots of fun which is vital because it keeps people coming back.
“It’s an absolute pleasure to see the benefit it has on people like Mark but everyone else too – I love my job and I’m so happy I get to work with this group every week.”
Walking Rugby takes place every Tuesday morning. The group meets at the cafe at Alan Higgs Centre from 10.30am, with the session taking place in the sports dome between until 12pm.
Find out more information here.
Image: Mark Harrison (back row, centre) with the walking rugby group
Article written by Danny Thompson.