Residents across the city living with long term health conditions and disabilities can now access free fitness activities to help improve their health and wellbeing.

The exercise sessions are specifically for people with autism, mental health illness, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Parkinson’s disease, and those who are on a healthcare pathway following a stroke or cardiac event.

Classes will be run by BH Live, the charitable trust that operates the city’s sport and leisure centres in partnership with Portsmouth City Council.

They include online disability yoga and seated exercise, alongside walking, pole walking and cycling in small groups. Sessions began in August and the programme will run over 20 weeks. Face to face walking and cycling sessions will be running from various locations across the city including Mountbatten Leisure Centre. Virtual classes for participation in the home will use channels such as Zoom to reach as many people as possible.

To deliver the classes, BH Live has been awarded National Lottery funding from Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities Fund in conjunction with Energise Me, a physical activity charity, which works across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. The fund aims to tackle inequalities in activity levels through working with its partners to reach those most in need as a result of the impact of COVID-19.

Tim Hollingsworth, Sport England’s Chief Executive, said,

“We are proud to be able to provide funding and support to BH Live in this difficult period. This funding will help support our valuable community infrastructure that is so important in keeping the nation active and will also provide important connections and reconnections for people whose lives have been affected by COVID-19 and for whom remaining active is so important for their physical, mental and social wellbeing. We know from our research and data that there are existing inequalities between groups when it comes to activity levels and COVID-19 has re-enforced these.  Thanks to the support of the National Lottery and its players, the Tackling Inequalities Fund will be both crucial and central to ensuring no-one is left behind when it comes to having the opportunity to be active during this period. This builds off the back of our £35m Community Emergency Fund that has already reached and supported over 7,500 community clubs and groups across England.”

Penny Woods, Energise Me’s Strategic Lead for Programmes said,

“COVID-19 has led to many challenges for communities who, for reasons such as low income and lack of opportunity, are less likely to be active. Some are finding it harder than ever to be active enough to maintain good health and wellbeing. Voluntary groups and organisations such as BH Live, who run activities, have been hard hit too. Many are struggling to survive, leaving them unable to provide what communities need.

“Through Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities Fund, we’ve launched Investing in Communities to tackle these issues head on. Enabling BH Live to resume these activities is a step towards reactivating our community and promoting better health and wellbeing.”

Following the lifting of Government restrictions in July, BH Live started to reopen the leisure centres it operates across the city with more to open in September. However, to comply with social distancing, the centres are operating at reduced capacity which affects the range of activities it can viably offer at this time.

Rob Cunningham, BH Live’s Head of Leisure adds,

“Prior to lockdown we were providing health and wellbeing exercise classes to around 1,500 people with long term health conditions each month – activity that we were able to sustain and support using profits from our commercial activity.

“Overnight we had to close our doors and it became more difficult to reach those who were benefiting from our services. While some people have had the ability and confidence to continue exercising at home, for many others it has been more challenging as they have been unable to access the support and motivation they need. This, compounded with loneliness and social isolation, is one of the many reasons we wanted to get these activities back up and running again as soon as possible – albeit in a slightly different format to allow for social distancing and to protect those who are concerned about returning to public spaces.

“We have been reaching out to those who were accessing our activities prior to lockdown. To overcome as many barriers to participation as possible we will also be providing help to those who aren’t so familiar with using technology.”

“Our thanks to Energise Me, Sport England and the National Lottery who, through their support and shared vision for active communities, have enabled us to make this happen.”

Cllr Matthew Winnington, Cabinet Member for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care at Portsmouth City Council, said,

We know that the past few months have been hard for people especially those living with long term conditions and disabilities. It is important that people stay fit and healthy and these fitness classes will help to get people moving and contribute to a healthy lifestyle. This will go a long way in supporting those at risk of becoming socially isolated whilst improving their health and wellbeing.”

For some activities including the COPD, cardiac and stroke rehabilitation classes, residents must have a referral from their health practitioner to participate.

To find out more about the activities, qualifying criteria and availability, email BH Live’s exercise referral team at

For more information about leisure centres in Portsmouth visit


Notes to Editors:

BH Live has been awarded £4,322 of National Lottery funding from Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities Fund to deliver the exercise classes.

Weekly classes: (60 mins)

  • Disability Yoga (Predominantly for people with Autism)
  • Portsmouth Interaction Cycle (supporting those with Mental Health illness)
  • Portsmouth Interaction Walk (supporting those with Mental Health illness)
  • Nordic Walking (Mixed)
  • Virtual Seated Chair Class (for people who have had a Stroke or are living with Parkinson’s)
  • Virtual Exercise (aimed at those with COPD)
  • Virtual Cardiac Rehabilitation (Phase 4 – referral required)

For more information about BH Live please contact:

Elizabeth Symmons, PR & Corporate Communications Executive E:

About BH Live

BH Live is a leading operator of leisure and event venues; a social enterprise that designs and builds engaging experiences to inspire people and enrich lives.

For more visit

Get social with us: LinkedIn, Twitter @BHLIVE_UK and Facebook @SocialEnterpriseBHLive

BH Live operates the following venues in partnership with Portsmouth City Council:

  • Mountbatten Leisure Centre – Portsmouth’s flagship leisure and event venue with a 50m swimming pool, 150 station gym, eight-court sports hall, squash, spin and dance studios, a cycle velodrome, athletics track, function suites with bars, a café and soft play facility. It is also home to a Clip ‘N Climb leisure attraction which opened in 2018.

For more visit

Get social with us: Twitter and Facebook @mountbattenlc

  • Pyramids Centre – one of Portsmouth’s entertainment and leisure venues. Overlooking Southsea beach and the Solent it has fun pools, flumes, a wave machine and a three-level soft play facility. There is a gym, weekly group exercise classes and a spa.

It also hosts regular live music events, conferences, exhibitions.

For more visit and

Get social with us: Twitter @PyramidsCentre @PyramidsLive @bhlivetickets

Facebook @Pyramids.Centre @PyramidsLive @bhlivetickets

  • Opens Monday 7 September Portsmouth Gymnastics Centre – gymnastics hall with physiotherapy and meeting room.

For more visit

Get social with us: Facebook @PortsmouthGymnasticsCentre

  • Opens Monday 7 September Portsmouth Tennis Centre – Situated in the north of Portsmouth consisting of four indoor courts and six floodlit outdoor courts. A comprehensive coaching programme caters for all ages and abilities. Sessions are available for tots, juniors, adults and also includes variations of the sport such as cardio tennis and touch tennis.

For more visit

Get social with us: Twitter @PortsTennis and Facebook @PortsmouthTC

  • Temporarily closed Eastney Swimming Pool – 20m swimming pool and a spectator area.

For more visit

Get social with us: Facebook @EastneyPool

  • Temporarily closed Wimbledon Park Sports Centre – 20 station gym, five badminton courts, basketball court and sports hall.

For more visit

Get social with us: Facebook @WimbledonParkSportsCentre

  • Opens Monday 7 September Charter Community Sports Centre – 20m swimming pool, 20 station gym, sports hall and an outdoor multi-use games area.

For more visit

Get social with us: Facebook @CharterCommunitySC

About Energise Me

Energise Me is a physical activity charity, which works across Hampshire and IOW. It creates happier, healthier and stronger communities through physical activity and sport.

For more information on Investing in Communities see:

For more information about Energise Me, please contact: Penny Woods –

About Sport England 

Sport England is a public body and invests up to £300 million National Lottery and government money each year in projects and programmes that help people get active and play sport.  It wants everyone in England, regardless of age, background, or level of ability, to feel able to engage in sport and physical activity. That’s why a lot of its work is specifically focused on helping people who do no, or very little, physical activity and groups who are typically less active – like women, disabled people and people on lower incomes.

About Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities Fund

Sport England’s work and contribution to Tackling Inequalities focuses on reducing the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on activity levels in underrepresented groups, ensuring gaps between those who are active and those who are not do not widen during this period.

With a strong understanding of the needs and issues in their areas, Sport England has initially channeled £3.3m through the 43 Active Partnerships across England to support community groups in their areas as a result of the impacts of COVID-19. We are also investing further funding through National Partner organisations that have specific expertise and reach to our target audiences.

This funding and support will enable community groups working with target audiences – Lower Socio-Economic Groups, Black, Asian Minority Ethnic Communities, Disabled People and People with Long-Term Health Conditions (LTC) – to continue to exist and engage with their communities with a view to keeping them active during both the lockdown and early recovery stages. About the Sport England Tackling Inequalities Fund

Part of Sport England’s overall £210m support package to help the sport and physical activity sector through COVID-19, Sport England is working with Active Partnerships and National Partners who have specific expertise engaging with our priority audiences.

Further information on this fund can be found here

About National Lottery  

National Lottery players raise £30m every week for good causes, funding arts, heritage, sports, voluntary and charity projects around the UK. For more information on good causes in your area go to