Jo finds new joy in life using healthy lifestyle initiative

“A helping hand reaching out to pull me out of my cave and into the light,” reflects Kidlington resident Jo Mercury, and sometimes we all need a friend to help us find our way.

Published: Tuesday, 27th June 2023

Jo mercury move together photo 2

For Jo, this came from the dedicated Cherwell District Council staff at Move Together, a local health and physical activity initiative.

Jo, aged 54, felt her life begin to slide towards a lonely and sedentary existence following a diagnosis of fibromyalgia and FND (Functional Neurological Disorder) that affected her physical health and mental wellbeing.

“I spent most of my life in bed; my movements were slow and becoming more painful each day. I felt every day was the same, and I had no joy.” Jo recalled. Frustrated and looking for a way out as her mental health began to suffer, Jo was referred to the Move Together scheme by her GP.

“I had no idea this scheme was available, and it has truly changed my life for the better,” Jo commented.

The Move Together programme is a local health initiative that supports Oxfordshire residents with long-term health and mental health conditions. In north Oxfordshire, it is coordinated by Cherwell District Council and Active Oxfordshire.

Jo started her health journey by attending a Move Together management course in April last year held at the Nuffield Hospital. Jo found the amount of information available really helpful, and the free resistance band was a great way to kickstart her exercise regime.

Seeing what was available inspired Jo to make significant and permanent changes to her lifestyle. This included swimming three times a week and doing yoga and pilates weekly.

“I feel absolutely fantastic, I now have increased energy levels, and my mobility has improved to the point where I have greatly reduced pain, a greater range of movement and am often pain-free when exercising, especially when swimming, something which has been amazing for both my physical and mental health.

“I have been given a new lease of life. My dog, Freddie, has been having the time of his life, loving the extra walks he gets to go on!” Jo enthused.

Jo continued: “Move Together has completely transformed my life. I am now much calmer, happier and more independent. I am proud to say I have found something that I can stick to as I know that my life is all the richer for it.”

Since starting her physical and mental health journey, Jo has seen a dramatic improvement in her health and wellbeing. From struggling to get out of bed in the morning to actively moving around without restriction and pain, Jo now has the confidence to go to her local leisure centre and use the swimming pool without fear of her fibromyalgia restricting or holding her back.

One of the parts of the programme Jo has found particularly beneficial is the regular contact from the Move Together team to get in touch to check on her progress. She has described them as ‘incredibly friendly, supportive and helpful’ and has named them a key factor in ensuring she continues with the scheme.

Councillor Phil Chapman, Portfolio Holder for Healthy and Safe Communities, commented: “It is always a pleasure to see Move Together having such a positive impact and changing residents’ lives for the better. It is really easy to access this programme, and we would encourage anyone looking to be more active but unsure where to start to use this scheme as their starting point. There are so many benefits to focusing on your physical and mental health, and Move Together is the perfect way to help with this.”

Jo’s final thoughts on the scheme that has had such a positive impact on her life: “Even though I still need to be careful with my body and its changeable, unpredictable weaknesses, thanks to the Move Together team, I now have a lot more confidence and strength to get going and live my life with a spring in my step!

“I’d encourage everyone to join these lovely people and help yourself off that sofa no matter what your health conditions are. They will help every step of the way and gently bring you back into the light too.”

The Move Together programme is open to Oxfordshire residents who meet eligibility criteria and enables them to access telephone support and fitness sessions to help them increase their activity levels. One of the many options offered is a 50 per cent discount at all leisure centres in Cherwell District for Move Together members.  

To sign up to Move Together and access all the benefits, visit the Move Together website: or call 01295 221575 and speak to a Cherwell Move Together team member.

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