Want to improve your health? MAKE YOU ACTIVE with friends and neighbours!

Ana Resende

By Ana Resende, on October 2nd, 2018

> Read Ana Resende's articles

Ana Resende remembers meeting Hugo Nunes in Riga in 2015 and his role in transforming Loulé (PT) thanks to the VITAL CITIES network. By making sports facilities accessible to all, Loulé is a pioneering city offering an active, fit lifestyle to all its population, thanks to regular events and an accessible infrastructure.

Loulé met partners at Riga URBACT City Festival in 2015

The first time I met Hugo Nunes, the deputy Mayor of Loulé City Council (at the time) was in Riga during the URBACT City Festival in early May 2015.

As far as I know, he was the only Portuguese politician participating in what was the first URBACT City Festival marking the launch of the new URBACT III cycle.

At that time being, the first call for proposals for Action Planning Networks had been launched, and the excitement of the cities in Riga was enormous. Some were looking for partners to set up the networks they had in mind, others “sniffing around” for interesting ideas to join and implement.

Later on I realised that the participation of Hugo Nunes in the Riga Festival had a specific purpose. In 2015 Loulé was a “European City of Sport” so it made sense for him to look for partners to share experiences and good practice, supporting the “Commitment to Sport” municipal programVital_citiesme.

A few months later, the municipality of Loulé, which had never participated in an URBACT network before, got the approval of the VITAL CITIES network, as lead city of a partnership featuring nine other European cities – all from very different regions.

By the end of October 2015, I met Hugo Nunes a second time – this time for his project’s kick off in Loulé. Only then did I understand the objectives of the VITAL CITIES network and its potential for transferability – specifically for cities with residential areas needing requalification and with a deprived population.

I realised that this project fell under the theme of Social Inclusion. Its focus? The “promotion of an active and healthy lifestyle that could contribute positively towards social cohesion, the general well-being and economic prosperity of the cities and their communities.” (see article in Portuguese of Hugo Nunes and Tiago Guadalupe)

Developing a new approach to the fight against a sedentary lifestyle

All the network’s partners collaborated actively in one common effort: to find solutions for the challenges and problems of each city together. Although the theme was a common one, the way of approaching it took into account different perspectives.

All the cities involved were committed to developing a new approach in the fight against a sedentary lifestyle, characterised by social exclusion, and with a common focus to “create opportunities to facilitate physical activities, where people live”.

The thinking behind the project was that if citizens do not use sports equipment due to financial constraints, it is necessary to bring them viable alternatives to improve their health.

Loulé was already implementing good local practices in terms of the municipality’s commitment to sport activities, including the “Individuals at school” (programme for national champions to speak to students and play in local schools) and the “Walk-Run Centres” (successful national programme promoting “walk-run” with technical monitoring). Its participation in the VITAL CITIES network really opened up new horizons offering “an opportunity to understand and keep pace with what is being done at European level, learn and share information, knowledge, experiences and good practices in terms of sport”.

The Integrated Action Plan (IAP) of Loulé

The design of Loulé´s Integrated Action Plan includes proposals for structural and functional interventions.

Structural changes: The municipality invests their own funds, fulfilling its commitment to the plan for example the physical interventions in poorer areas, with particular social exclusion problems, with more economic, social, educational and sports needs, both in Loulé and in the city of Quarteira.

1. The area around the Municipal Stadium in Loulé.

Breaking down the physical barrier that exists between the sports infrastructure and the adjacent neighbourhoods, through the creation of a green belt around the stadium, with new sport offerings;


2. The Abelheira and Amendoeira neighbourhoods in Quarteira

Creating a green connection between both;


3. Coppingen and Stuttgart streets in Quarteira`

Using the free space to install outdoor fitness equipment and a play area for children.


Functional interventions: the municipality offers a vast range of events on a regular basis, such as sporting events (especially over the holidays) and conferences/seminars on themes connected to sport and health, which the entire population is welcome to attend.

The VITAL CITIES fortnight was planned this year (two weeks in March 2018) to offer the most varied activities: Tennis, Clinic Pilates, Tai Chi, March, BTT-cycling, Zumba, Free Dance, Mix Training, Boxing, Hydrotherapy, Aqua-fitness, and Hydro Deep. This is a new endeavour created following the project’s results. Portugal_Loule_beach

The functional intervention are planned and managed thanks to a multilevel governance system. Municipal departments and the local stakeholders organise the programmes together. The municipality also collaborates closely with national bodies.

Even if the VITAL CITIES project is finished, the “Active Summer” project run by the municipality will keep the philosophy and spirit of VITAL CITIES project alive, with daily free activities in the summer of 2018.

If you find yourself visiting Loulé, or at their local beach and come across an outdoor activity – why not join the fun?

Creating the VITAL Cities Label

After the project’s formal ending, it was time to assess its results and think of new ways to continue what was started.

The final VITAL CITIES meeting held in March in Loulé reaffirmed a common intention with partner cities reiterating their joint commitment to project’s objectives. A group of cities decided to create a VITAL CITIES label. This label shall be a brand for the cities that identify with the idea of fighting against inactivity and encouraging people to practice a healthy and physically active lifestyle.Vital_cities_Loule

The idea of the label dates back to 2016, but now, with the final results of the partnership project, the development of a feasibility study seems more tangible. A key concept behind this initiative is the creation of a social movement for change. The cities are encouraged to participate and share that common objective, creating a successful network together.

One of the major drivers of the movement is the coordinator of the local project: Tiago Guadalupe, who has always been a VITAL CITIES network enthusiast. If you are interested in participating in this extended network and obtaining the VITAL CITIES quality label, you can contact him at tiago.guadalupe@cm-loule.pt or, alternatively, at steven.rose@theaws.onmicrosoft.com

Long live URBACT Partnerships

I would like to express my satisfaction, as a National URBACT Point, to have witnessed the birth, growth and success of this project confirming my belief that URBACT (with its very specific action-oriented and integrated, participative approach) is a valuable programme for European cities that partake in it, not to mention the competence of local staff and team members.

Long live URBACT partnerships!

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