A free community lifestyle initiative across Sandwell in the Black Country has been hailed an unqualified success by the very people it benefitted

The ‘Portway Reach’ programme by Sandwell Leisure Trust (SLT) provided 119 qualifying residents with a free ONE card membership for 11 weeks during April to June 21 – for unlimited access to gym, swimming and fitness classes – in a bid to re-engage and support people over the age of 18 in the local community directly affected by COVID-19.

Funded by the National Lottery’s Coronavirus Community Support Fund (CCSF), Portway Reach sought to increase the confidence and self-esteem of individuals by re-introducing them into SLT centres and back towards a healthy and active lifestyle.

It was spearheaded by Oldbury facility Portway Lifestyle Centre on Newbury Lane, but due to the restrictions of booking under pandemic guidelines was extended out to the eight other SLT centres across the borough too.

Each participant completed a survey on finishing the programme and the key findings revealed:

  • 89% said it had a positive impact on their mental health
  • 74% felt it has improved their sleep
  • 68% said it had improved their general eating habits
  • 68% said it has improved their confidence
  • 89% have been motivated to improve their activity levels
  • 67% intend to continue with their membership once the programme had expired

John Harling, Leisure Manager at Portway Lifestyle Centre, said:

“We’re absolutely delighted that so many customers have benefitted from this targeted funding, with some excellent feedback received as well. It’s very gratifying to see and hear that this free scheme seems to have made the biggest difference to mental and physical health over lockdown – and made such an impact on so many aspects of pandemic life. We will continue to offer support to all of the Portway Reach members, as we gradually return to more normal operations after so-called Freedom Day.”