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Mark Andrews – sometimes it's hard to keep fit while cooking

Ok, I think I can manage that bit.

Exercise videos are harder than they look
Exercise videos are harder than they look

"Don't forget to breathe!" implored the urgent voice coming out of the computer tablet. Now I'm not always the most organised of people, and seem to be in a dwindling minority who still needs a paper diary to keep on top of what I'm doing. But thus far, touch wood, remembering to breathe has not been a major problem.

Then again, the lady in question was giving out so many instructions at breakneck speed, I would be bound to forget something.

To be honest, I always thought of exercise videos as being the preserve of housewives of a certain age. Hester from Fresh Fields maybe, doing a spot of after-breakfast aerobics in a headband while watching Mad Lizzie on TV-am. "Agadoo, three, four! Push pineapples, shake the tree. To the left, to the right, jump up and down and to the knees. Ok that's enough, got coffee with Angie at 10."

But here, on a frosty Wednesday night, I find myself doing "half stars" in the kitchen while the carrots simmer on the hob. Living the dream, me.

Maybe a brief explanation will give this a bit of context.

As part of my rehabilitation regime following a heart attack in April last year, I am supposed to take regular exercise each day. During the lazy, hazy days of summer, that wasn't a problem, just a brisk 50-minute walk to give the old ticker a workout. But I have also been advised to avoid the cold, as that makes the heart pump harder in an effort to keep warm. Which presents a bit of a conundrum in the Great British Winter.

Unhappy about me going out in the various storms we have just been enduring, my better half found a series of online exercise videos specially designed to help people recover from heart problems. And naturally I dismissed them out of hand.

"I don't think I've got to that stage yet," I replied indignantly, on seeing images of an old-boy doing exercises from a dining chair. That indignation lasted all of about two minutes, before I took another look at the frost outside and decided that maybe I could give it a go. As long as I start on level four.

If trying to follow an exercise video aimed at people 20 years older than myself came as a bit of dent to my pride, it was nothing compared to that when I discovered I couldn't keep up. Nowhere near.

"Let's have some big arms," cajoled a mature lady in an assertive cockney lilt. "Do it like you really mean business!" Obediently I found myself marching breathlessly on the spot, arms flailing above my head while hoping I haven't overdone the Aunt Bessie's. Suddenly, it felt like I was back on the school playing field again, being heckled by an angry teacher for not understanding the laws of rugby union. I still don't by the way.

There was a little respite. The mature cockney lady told me if I was finding it a bit too much, I could follow her much younger assistant. And sure enough, a lithe, attractive brunette stepped forward with a much daintier set of exercises, repeatedly explaining there was no way she could keep up with her formidable mentor. I suppose these days even exercise videos must come tinged with a dash of political correctness.

Joking apart, the range of support that is available for heart patients nowadays is fantastic, and I'm truly grateful for the amount of help I have received from heart charities over the past 10 months.

And the good news is I've just had the results of a blood test, and my cholesterol is now down to an impressive 2.7. The gaunt, haggard appearance I had when I emerged from hospital has largely gone, and I now look more like I did this time last year, if notably thinner. A kind colleague last week even remarked that I looked 10 years younger.

Yes, there are a few things you can no longer do ­– eating nice food for one. But it really isn't the end of the world. Just don't forget to breathe.

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