Pull up a seat

Every Monday at the Meridian Centre you’ll find people doing chair-based exercise to 80s and 90s music. Open to all patients within the Primary Care Network, this session is there for people with long-term health conditions. After the session, the group who set out on their weekly walk to Swanhurst return and the room is a hub of activity. There’s tea, chatting and often some cake.

People come to the session with different hopes, they leave with a shared sense of strength, social energy, and self-confidence.

Scroll for their stories...

Meet Zaibbin

Zaibbin leads the chair exercise. Bubbly and warm, she encourages each person to go at their own pace, only pushing themselves as far as they are willing and able to go. Over time, people build strength, fitness, confidence and feel a sense of community.

Meet George

George has been coming to the Meridian Centre for 3 years. He was having some trouble with his arthritis, so he was referred to the group by his GP.

He lives alone and so he finds getting out of the house and being social important, particularly when it’s combined with exercise. Through coming to chair exercise, George has found other activities. He found a gardening group at Lode Lane, where he has formed a good relationship with the staff and begun to help out. He uses his Active Wellbeing card to go swimming and says that being with the group has made him realise how important it is to stay active and social.

“I enjoy meeting new people and spending time with people I wouldn’t have otherwise met. Coming to the group has made me realise there’s more to life than being alone”

Meet Kelvin

My name is Kelvin Frabley, I am 63 years old. I love messing around with mechanical things but after covid I can’t do this. I do chair-based exercise every Monday and another one every Friday. I’ve been coming here for nearly two years now.

The doctors referred me to a walk. From the walk, I was told about the chair-based exercise, which was easier to  do at first. I did regain a lot of muscle mass. It’s all started to disappear a little now.

I don’t miss this for nothing. It gets you out the house. Get some exercises. You interact with all the other people. Have a laugh afterwards. Sit down and talk, right the world. It’s a peaceful place to come. I’ve made some more friends. Everybody’s fair.

I haven’t learned any new skills but I’ve sharpened old ones. For instance, communications with people. I’m not afraid now to get up and say something.

The most memorable times are the birthday parties and that. We try to find out when people’s birthdays are coming, we go down to the pub or bring a cake. It makes their days, makes our day. A 90 year old couple come and the husband keeps his wife active. You see all sorts, that makes you realise you’re not as bad off as you think you are.

People should come to the session to enjoy themselves. Now all of us have come, there’s not enough chairs and facilities for all people. We make the best of it.

Meet Allen

Allen has been coming to the walking group for 12 months after his GP told him to have and see what the Active Wellbeing Society offer. He joined on his own and just started walking one day a week and then joined for two days a week.

Allen has had 2 strokes and had to learn to walk again – around the same time he he came out of the hospital, he also suffered the loss of his mother. He said that the walking groups helped him “get out of the house and made life more bearable” for him during that tough time.

Allen said he always comes back as everyone is so “polite and joyful, staff are superb and got made to feel welcomed when I didn’t know anyone”. He sees the walking group as a “God send,” as it has meant he has been able to meet lots of new people and be a part of a community. So much so that, the group are now starting to meet outside the walking group to celebrate birthdays and special at the local curry house.

He even started to recommend it other patients at his doctors and helped another member of the group, Hilda, join. They both regularly walk with the groups and say it has encouraged them to be more active.

Meet James and Dorothy

My name is Jim Brown, I’m 93 years old now and I’ve lived in Birmingham all my life. My wife Dorothy was 90 last week. We celebrated her birthday here with cake.

Dorothy has dementia and it’s virtually wrecking our lives. I have cancer of the bladder too– it’s under observation all the time, so we have regular visits to the hospital so that’s time consuming. We’ve done our best and we’ve had a good life, so we can’t complain.

My wife used to do keep fit regularly. I was looking for something she could do and so we joined this group two years ago. We’ve been coming ever since.

I enjoyed my job as an electrical engineer until I retired. We were looking for something to do together, so we took up bowls. I finished up by running over 60 drills with 52 pensioners. That’s around 25 years ago now. Even though Dorothy’s arthritis mean she can’t play any more, I’m hoping I’m strong enough to play next season.

We do very little activities now. My wife was a good singer years ago, so we go to a group called ‘Singing for the Brain.’ And we’ve got a family; we’ve got four children, 2 girls and two boys, all grown up, who we see regularly. We meet friends once a week. And that’s subject to being able to travel.

Some of the women in the group of friends we used to meet have passed away now. So Dorothy’s less interested in the conversations there. Here you can see different people talk.

All I think about now really is keeping my wife happy. Sometimes she’s like now she’s cheerful, but sometimes she will complain that she didn’t enjoy it. We don’t get opinions from my wife very often, and they’re not necessarily true opinions. The problem is I don’t know.

Really, my own interest really is secondary. She’s the most important thing to me now. Well, if she’s enjoying it, that’s OK.

Meet Sarah

Sarah lives in Birmingham. She strongly believes in the benefits of exercise for both physical and mental health. Since retiring, Sarah keeps her weekdays busy with different exercise and social groups—from tai chi, chair exercise to coffee mornings.

Sarah grabs life by the horns. Exercise has always been important part of her life and that’s no different now she’s in her seventies. She shared;

“I used to run an exercise class at work lunchtime cause people are saying they were unfit and so I booked the room outside and ran an exercise class there with a Jane Fonda tape.”

This same can-do attitude led her to join this group to build strength after an operation. Sarah has a few health conditions and high blood pressure, which have deepened her commitment to looking after her health.

For Sarah, exercise is an important part of maintaining her independence. She reflected, “At our age you start falling over and that’s a fact cause if you sit down for too long you lose your strength. If your muscles are not working your legs are not going to hold you up.”

The social side is an added bonus, Sarah occasionally struggles with social anxiety, so she values this group for the opportunity it offers to get her out of the house. It can be hard to make friends. It can be tempting to sit back and wait for people to talk to you, but Sarah believes you have to initiate conversations too. Fortunately for Sarah, in one of her first sessions, she met someone who was also new to the group. They’ve since become good friends.


UB40: Red Red Wine
Elton John: I’m Still Standing
The Spencer Davis Group: Keep on Running
Jungle: ELO
Eurythmics, Annie Lennox, Dave Stewart: Sweet Dreams…
Madonna: La Isla Bonita
Eruption: One Way Ticket

Fleetwood Mac: Albatross
Rick Astley: Never Gonna Give You Up
Queen: A Kind of Magic
Stevie Wonder: I Wish
Tears For Fears: Everybody Wants to Rule The World
The Beatles: Hello, Goodbye
The Jacksons: Blame it on the Boogie

Bryony Lawless
Author: Bryony Lawless