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West Midlands railway communities on track to fitness in pioneering scheme

Communities around six Birmingham railway stations can embark on a journey to improved health as experts lead a series of free fitness and wellbeing events and activities.

The ‘Thrive Stations’ initiative has launched with the backing of West Midlands Railway and funding has been provided to support a programme of activities until October. The aim is to provide accessible fitness and wellbeing services direct to the community.

Areas served by the stations – Perry Barr, Duddeston, Jewellery Quarter, Aston, Witton and Hamstead – will be the venues for the wellbeing pop-ups, designed and operated by wellbeing experts Parveen Talwar from Communities Engage and Thrive and Shamala Antonio from Impact 4Life Wellbeing.


The outdoor talks, demonstrations, workshops and hand-out literature aim to help people in the area get healthy and active. People of all ages can join in the sessions, which include advice on diabetes and weight-management, exercise sessions and yoga.

Organisers say smoothie-making sessions have proved a particular hit, where smoothies are made by pedalling a ‘smoothie bike’, offering a fun way to get some gentle exercise.

Parveen said: “West Midlands Railway has enabled us to provide these invaluable free health and wellbeing sessions to the community including fitness, nutrition talks, smoothie-making sessions, signposting and health checks. The main objective of this project is to provide accessible fitness and wellbeing services and take them directly to the community.


“All the activities are being supported and publicised by West Midlands Railways to reach and support local communities.

“We’re broadcasting the events on social media and leading fun and interactive sessions with communities at festivals and events. These include talks on wellbeing and important topics that are a major concern to people’s health.

“Our outdoor events involve us setting up a pop-up wellbeing service, which includes exercise, nutrition advice, yoga, smoothie-making, and guiding people to other local health and wellbeing activities and services.”

Shamala added: “We are also hosting health and wellbeing talks on subjects including diabetes, weight management, heart health and obesity. Health checks carried out include blood pressure and weight.

“Goodie bags of fruit, stress balls, resistance bands, sweat bands and water bottles are understandably proving popular.

“Overall, it’s an excellent time to focus on health and wellbeing as we emerge from the year of pandemic crisis. So many people would say their wellbeing has suffered during these past months, with increased stress and uncertainty and health venues and gyms having limited opening.

“Because our events are free, everyone can partake and benefit. We are welcoming people of all ages, from children to pensioners.”

Thrive Stations support has been available at Birchfield Big Local and the Birchfield Jazz Festival and further pop-up events will take place over the coming weeks, including at Aston Community Games on Sunday, August 8, Handsworth Park on Saturday, August 21 and at the Simmer down festival, also at Handsworth Park, on Sunday, August 22.

Parveen said she would love to extend the programme nationally.

“This is an extremely innovative project. It’s exciting, fun and engaging on every level and we are extremely proud of the project and grateful to West Midlands Railway for enabling the launch of this health and wellbeing programme,” she said.

Fay Easton, head of community and stakeholder for West Midlands Railway, said: “We are delighted to be working with Shamala and Parveen to bring health and wellbeing programmes into Birmingham communities.

“The ‘Thrive Stations’ project is part of the Customer and Communities Improvement Fund Programme which launched at the beginning of the year to support projects to benefit local communities. The full range of funding projects is now online at the programme website www.21stories.co.uk.”