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Exercising your way to better mental health

When we set up MOVEability, our purpose was to make exercise more accessible to those who, for whatever reason, struggled to access existing classes. At the back of our minds, we knew our classes would bring benefits to mental as well as physical health, but over time, we have come to realise that the benefits to mental health are equal to physical health, if not more critical.

Whilst, naturally to us, our clients’ physical health is important, it is becoming more widely acknowledged physical and mental health are inextricably linked. For instance, the benefits they gain from being able to do more due to muscle strengthening and greater flexibility have an undeniably positive effect on their mental health, by boosting confidence and self esteem.

A sense of purpose

It gives us absolute joy to hear and read feedback from clients, emphasising the greater independence they now enjoy and sense of purpose they now feel as a result of being able to do more following our classes.

For some, such as the wonderful Paula, our classes have even gone as far as reigniting their smile.

And then there is the lovely Derek, who we have seen flourish as the weeks go by. He has dementia and attends our classes with the support of his daughter. Watch how he loves to help me.

Isolation can have a huge impact on a person’s mental health, and so from the very start we have emphasised the social side of our classes. We are concerted in our efforts to make every class fun and welcoming and have made the chat over a cuppa after our onsite classes very much part of the MOVEability experience. – with some participants expressing this is just as important to them as the exercise itself.

The fact that one regular dubbed our classes a ‘social gathering with purpose’ says it all.


If our approach needed any validation, we were certainly handed it when MOVEability became one of the organisations selected for funding by The Sovereign Network Group’s World Mental Health Day Fund to deliver activities that promote better mental health and wellbeing in the Newbury and surrounding area.

This funding, along with other grants and awards we have won through UnLTD, Get Berkshire Active and Connecting Communities in Berkshire, has helped us leverage the tremendous efforts our regulars were already making in raising awareness of our classes through word of mouth, enabling us to make improvements to our website making it easier to find out about and book our classes, source new venues and seek & train more instructors.

These efforts are bearing fruit. Our Hermitage, Chieveley and Thatcham classes are steadily growing, with numbers now consistently so much higher at Hermitage that we have had to move into a bigger hall!

What are the secrets of our success

We are lucky to be able to tap into the experience and expertise of a marketer who quickly established that we needed to keep our appeal broad. Our goal is not profit, whilst we do strive for efficiency and running as tight a ship as possible, it’s inclusivity and accessibility that are key to us. We want our classes open to anyone who will benefit. We don’t want people thinking they can’t attend because our marketing doesn’t appear to be targeted at them.

Furthermore, we are discovering that there are lots of benefits to mixed ability, multi-generational classes. Variety is indeed the spice of life: people feel less pigeonholed and take comfort in seeing others of various ages, abilities and from a wide range of backgrounds participating in the class. So, whilst many come in the first instance to address a physical health challenge, they continue to come each week because the classes are fun, engaging and social, they meet a wide range of people.

As Stuart Wheeler of Freedom Wheelchair Skills says the fact our classes are mixed ability and multi generational made him feel normal.

True, we do run classes for specific conditions where charities have provided funding, such as Parkinson’s, but in line with our mixed ability, multi generational approach, we don’t restrict our classes by ability or age. All are welcome.

We make it easy

To make our classes as inclusive and accessible, we take away the stress and pressure often associated with attending exercise classes:

  • No upfront payments – all classes are pay-as-you-go
  • No pressure to attend – even if you register, you don’t pay if you can’t make it
  • No need to book in advance – show up on the day
  • No pressure to ‘get it right’ – just do what you can manage

Where you can find us

In Chieveley, Hermitage, Lambourn and Thatcham. Visit our Seated Chair Exercise Classes in Berkshire page for details of upcoming classes.

In Newbury for our Parkinson’s UK class.

We also run two online classes a week: Seated Total Body Strengthening/Movement Class and Get Berkshire Active – Online Seated Chair Exercise

Watch this space for new classes. We have additional classes in the works, including a new class in Newbury.

Providing opportunities for local people

Are you based in Berkshire? Do you have an interest in accessible fitness? Are you a freelance fitness instructor looking for something a bit different? Are you a retired fitness instructor or dance teacher happy to help deliver a class once or twice a week? Have you always fancied being a fitness instructor and want to give it a go? We are always on the lookout for new instructors and co-pilots. We are looking for people who are passionate about enhancing the lives of others, don’t take themselves too seriously, don’t mind singing along to golden oldies and love mixing with people of all ages and from a range of backgrounds. If that’s you, please get in touch.

Not based in Berkshire, but love what MOVEability does? Want to set up a MOVEability class in another area of the country? We’d love to hear from you.