WINGHAM, ONT. -- Don Dodds is happy to be back on his Healthy Hearts exercise bike after a six month hiatus caused by COVID-19.

“We could do a lot of this stuff we do here at home, but you just don’t do it. So, I did miss the program, and to be quite honest, there’s a certain amount of social interaction that happens here, and I missed all that and the people that I took the program with,” says Dodds.

Dodds, along with 140 men and women who’ve suffered a heart attack or other heart related event, have been sitting on the sidelines since March.

That’s when the Goderich based classes, counselling, and heart related education he covets, was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.

It’s the first long term cancellation of Healthy Hearts classes in the programs 25 year history. Last week, Healthy Hearts Huron returned, to the relief of many recovering heart attack patients.

“Throughout the pandemic many programs were able to go virtual. Our program, unfortunately, couldn’t do that. So, it’s really nice to be back and have the patients here exercising. Many tell us it’s something they really missed during the pandemic,” says program director, Alis Bonsignore.

Like many health programs cancelled due to the pandemic, Healthy Hearts isn’t just something people liked to do, it’s something they needed to do to keep healthy, and in some cases, to simply stay alive.

“There are risks involved. People leaving their house and being around other people, but it’s also detrimental to their health to be at home and not doing anything and being sedentary. We know that is a major risk factor in developing heart disease and having a second event. So getting them up and active is really important for their health,” says Bonsignore.

For Dodds, it’s important to be back at Healthy Hearts. He’s been coming here every week since his heart attack, 17-years ago.

“I came with a group that had the same kind of condition that I had. It was a relief to know that somebody else had been through the same thing and were still going,” he says.

Now that Healthy Hearts is back in action, the cardiac rehab charity needs to fundraise.

Although it couldn’t offer programming virtually, it is doing its annual fundraiser, the Walk of Life, in a virtual fashion. To learn more you can click here.