The Academia da Cidade Program (which loosely translates to City Gyms), is a health promotion policy with a focus on physical activity, leisure, and healthy eating.

The program was first implemented in 2002 by the Health Secretary of Recife. The program currently has approximately 30,000 participants in its 19 “polos” (settings where the intervention occurs, commonly public parks). Academia da Cidade is a community-based physical activity promotion strategy that implements physical activity classes at the community level. The program takes place daily from 5:30 to 8:30 a.m. and from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. and it includes aerobic and dance classes, and organized jogging groups, as well as exercise and diet orientation sessions for healthy people and also persons with hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

The goal of project GUIA was to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the program including qualitative and quantitative methods in order to further triangulate the results and make more significant recommendations. The evaluation of the program included a cross sectional random digit dialing survey, assessment of physical activity in public recreation spaces such as parks and beaches comparing sites that offer and that don’t host the Academia da Cidade project, using systematic objective observation (SOPARC). A qualitative evaluation of programs users and developers, the development of a comprehensive logic model and a historical evaluation of physical activity promotion programs in the city.

Brazil is one of the few countries around the world that has recognized the important priority of physical activity promotion and has granted it a prominent place on the national agenda. The Brazilian government, along with other important non-governmental organizations and academic institutions, are working together to support research, practice, and policy for promoting physical activity. The Ministry of Health of Brazil has supported the creation of a national network of researchers and practitioners organized around the promotion and development of infrastructure that supports the adoption of healthy lifestyles, including the practice of community based physical activity. One of the most recent groundbreaking initiatives is the creation of the Academia da Saude, a national program that expands a physical activity intervention to 4,000 new municipalities around the country over the next 5 years. Academia da Saude is based on the successful experience of the program Academia da Cidade which began in the city of Recife and has been effectively implemented and evaluated in other cities from Brazil. The program offers physical activity classes (e.g., aerobics, yoga, tai chi, dance, stretching) as well as assessment, nutrition counseling and chronic disease prevention. The Academia programs are delivered by trained professionals, and importantly, they are free of charge to participants. Academia da Cidade was first evaluated by Project GUIA, a collaboration between national and international government and academic institutions from the United States (U.S.) and Brazil, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Prevention Research Center in St. Louis, and the Ministry of Health of Brazil Project GUIA has been highly successful and serves as an example for cross national and transdisciplinary collaboration. Currently, project GUIA is a partner of the Ministry of Health in Brazil in an ongoing project to evaluate the expansion of Academia da Cidade in Pernambuco State and Academia da Saude in Brazil.