A heart surgeon forced to give up running after breaking his back is encouraging more people to saddle up for their health.

Doctor Nigel Stephens, a cardiologist at Northwick Park Hospital, took up cycling after suffering a sudden stress fracture while out jogging.

The 53-year-old crawled on his hands and knees along the Grand Union Canal searching for help after the incident.

Upon recovery he returned to his childhood love of cycling joining age group racing.

He went on to win silver and gold medals at the Masters World and European Championships.

Nigel has since helped to spread the word of “midlife cycle lectures” claiming age is no excuse not to exercise.

The workshops are aimed at those who return to exercise in their 40s when career and family demands are more manageable.

Nigel said: “I’m a sportsperson so I know how hard it is to be told to stop a particular form of exercise because you are supposedly too old. It’s conventional medical advice that’s well-meaning but often misplaced.

“There’s a huge amount of conflicting information about exercise when all you really need to know is that the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

“We are seeing far more cases of irregular heart rhythms in people who have been keen runners for most of their lives, but the majority of these cases are manageable.

“My advice is start modestly, do something you enjoy and don’t pay too much attention to the latest fads. A good example is high intensity interval training which is proven to be effective but not something you want to try if just returning to regular exercise

“It’s also important to try and incorporate some weight training to keep your bones strong, especially if you are a cyclist.

“Cycling was a weird niche sport when I was a teenager but mass participation in the sport can only be a positive and I welcome that as both a cyclist and a consultant. The sense of adventure and freedom of just going for a ride is something everyone should enjoy.”