Cardiac patients across the north are being given the chance to get healthy with Inverness Caley Thistle.
The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Community Trust (ICTCT) is running a Football Fans in Training initiative for people recovering from heart attacks or surgery, in a first for Scotland.
They have joined forces with the University of Highlands and Islands (UHI) and NHS Highland in order to do this.
The free 13-week programme will include advice and support on physical activity, diet and weight loss, and researchers will work with participants to evaluate the initiative.
This is the first time it has been specifically aimed at cardiac patients.
If it is successful, the programme could become an integral part of cardiac rehabilitation services in the future.
It was described as an “exciting” opportunity by health chiefs.
Professor Steve Leslie, cardiologist and clinical lead for cardiac rehabilitation at NHS Highland, said: “We are very excited that this opportunity has become available for local patients.
“Increasing physical activity is a key part of recovery after a cardiac event and football is a fun and sociable way to exercise.”
Craig Masterton, head of community at Inverness Caledonian Thistle Community Trust, added: “Building our local partnerships and using the pull of football to ensure we can access and benefit the local community is at the heart of everything we do.
“We are delighted to have the opportunity to engage with those who have suffered cardiac events and we are positive we can help influence their recovery with a path back to exercise and health.”
However, medical advances have helped to significantly reduce death rates, with seven out of ten patients now expected to survive a heart attack.
As a result, there are about 135,000 survivors in Scotland who require rehabilitation support.
Research shows that exercise is the best therapy to prevent repeat heart attacks or cardiac surgery, however, up to 50% of patients fail to fully engage with physical activity programmes.
Initiatives such as Football Fans in Training aims to address this issue.
Health researchers from UHI will be evaluating the outcomes of the initiative.
Professor Trish Gorely from the university’s department of nursing and midwifery, hoped to see positive results from the project.
She said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to see whether a highly successful lifestyle programme can help those who have had a heart attack.
“It’s really exciting to bring together NHS Highland, the University of the Highlands and Islands and Inverness Caledonian Thistle Community Trust in a project that we hope will improve the health and wellbeing of patients who have suffered heart attacks.”
The Football Fans in Training programme will start on Monday May 31.
Anyone who has been referred to cardiac rehabilitation is invited to find out more by contacting Craig Masterton on 07754 609 425 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.