In late November, I had the pleasure of visiting Curitiba, Brazil for the 9th Brazilian Congress on Physical Activity and Health. For a relatively youthful researcher, giving the opening keynote address (let alone in a different language via a translator!) was both daunting and immensely gratifying. The theme of my talk was the ‘contribution of parks and open spaces to physical activity and health’ and included, among other things, research that was funded by Active Living Research (ALR) and two presentations from recent ALR conferences (see here and here). It was a real thrill to share my thoughts on how we can use an environmental justice approach to improve our neighborhoods and parks, all the while involving local residents in the process. These universal ideas seemed to resonate with the over 900 attendees present.
Throughout my trip and especially during the conference, I was consistently bombarded by a feeling of camaraderie, collegiality, and a shared sense of purpose. Unfortunately, my Portuguese wasn’t at the level it should have been, but even thousands of miles from home (Euclidean distance, if anyone’s counting), it wasn’t hard to detect a common commitment to the value of physical activity and to promoting active living through building healthy communities. The theme of the event was “Active People, Healthy Cities” and it was chaired and hosted by Dr. Rodrigo Reis of Pontiff Catholic University of Parana, who should be a familiar name to ALR researchers and who will be part of an exciting international symposium at the 2014 ALR conference. Curitiba is known for its amazing parks and plazas and we didn’t miss out on opportunities to visit such highlights as Parque Barigui, Tangua, and Universidade Livre.
Just in case you missed it, this was the 9th (!) iteration of this conference in Brazil. It is held biennially, so it’s been around for 18 years and counting! That’s an impressive achievement that we should aspire to here in the U.S. While the international speakers featured such familiar names as Jim Sallis (University of California, San Diego), Thom McKenzie (San Diego State University), Ross Brownson (Washington University in St. Louis), Mike Pratt (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Jorge Mota (Universidade do Porto), and Lars Bo Andersen (University of Southern Denmark), the real stars of the show were over 300 graduate students, faculty members, and other professionals from across Brazil and South America who presented their exciting work on a wide variety of topics related to physical activity and health. I enjoyed learning from and getting to know many of these excellent researchers and one of the highlights of my trip was being invited to join in a soccer match on the last evening. Needless to say, I got an entire week’s worth of physical activity trying to keep up with the Brazilians at the ‘beautiful game’ but I loved every minute of it (and it was indeed beautiful … assuming you were watching them and not me!).
Of course, a trip to Brazil also wouldn’t be complete without seeing some of the sights of Rio de Janeiro. On the way home, Dr. McKenzie and I both had an overnight layover in this magnificent city and so we didn’t waste any time checking out such spots as Copacabana Beach (we navigated the subway system to get there), Maracana Stadium (which will host the final match of the 2014 World Cup), the main samba parade route and stadium for Brazil’s annual Carnival (no, Thom and I didn’t dance), and the iconic Corcovado (located in Tijuca Forest national park and home to the massive Christ the Redeemer statue). All in all, Brazil was an amazing adventure filled with many lessons about international ingenuity and active living. I look forward to returning someday and to welcoming my many new friends to the U.S. soon.
About the author
Andy Kaczynski, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior and the Prevention Research Center within the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. His research focuses on the impact of the built environment on active living, with a particular emphasis on the role of parks in promoting physical activity among children and adults. Andy can be reached at email@example.com.
A few photos from the trip
Fitness stations in Parque Barigui
Hiking in Universidade Livre
Post soccer match with new Brazilian friends