Cultural heritage as a playground!

Photo de José Fidalgo Martins_2023_rvbx400The fight against sedentary lifestyles and lack of physical activity requires constant innovation. While more than seven out of ten Europeans (73%) live near some form of cultural heritage, can we use this lever to encourage people to practice? This is the approach of the European SPACHE project, presented to us by José Fidalgo Martins, project manager at Tempo Livre, the pilot organization.

The 21st century brought new challenges to an increasingly mechanized and technologically developed global society. Physical activity and movement were for thousands of years, the basis of adaptation and survival of human beings, and essential for their own evolution. However, in recent decades, citizens’ lifestyles have changed drastically, promoting sedentarism and physical inactivity.
The consequences are known and manifestly dramatic for people’s health, particularly in terms of the development of heart diseases, obesity, diabetes, and other non-communicable diseases. This reality also has high costs for the countries’ economies, due to absenteeism from work and the overload of health systems.
The SPACHE project was therefore born in this context where promoting physical activity and sport seems decisive, but where it is also essential to think of new and innovative strategies to encourage physical activity and sport. It is from this observation that the idea of using cultural heritage as a lever for the practice of physical activity was born. As Europe is a rich and unique region in terms of cultural heritage, this is an opportunity not to be missed in order to achieve our goals!
In this way, nine partners from six different countries – Tempo Livre (PT); Municipality of Guimarães (PT); Municipality of Gargnano (IT); Alto Garda Volleyball (IT); IRS – Institute for Social Research (IT); Olympic Committee of Slovenia – Association of Sports Federations (SI); Tafisa (DE); Sport Fryslân (NL) and Sport and Citizenship (FR) – recognized in the field of sport, promotion of physical activity, culture and heritage, and a long experience in public policy management and social research, joined to create a European consortium, with the aim of developing a project based on the connection between sport/physical activity and cultural heritage.

We can identify several advantages in linking sport and cultural heritage:

  • Cultural heritage forms an integral part of the life of its citizens (ESPON, 2019).
  • More than seven out ten of Europeans (73%) live near some form of culture heritage (Eurobarometer Cultural Heritage, 2017).
  • The power of cultural heritage to favor happiness, the satisfaction with leisure activities and health and well-being is particularly relevant for enhancing physical activity (European Commission, 2018).

“Strengthening the attractiveness and pride of the inhabitants”

Strengthening the links between culture, heritage resources and sport is also an excellent opportunity for policy makers to adopt measures and propose activities with a positive social and economic impact at local level. Developing the links between sport and culture can for example help strengthen tourism or encourage sustainable mobility, two issues that have been widely explored during the 30 months of the SPACHE project.
SPACHE aimed to encourage participation in sport and physical activity, especially by supporting the implementation of the Council Recommendation on Health Enhancing Physical Activity and being in line with the EU Physical Activity Guidelines and the Tartu Call for Healthy Lifestyle. For the duration of the project implementation, the partners have then declined this general objective into more specific work streams, the SPACHE project should thus serve to :

  • Explore linkages between sport and cultural heritage (theory and practice).
  • Test specific pilot non-competitive sport/physical activity programmes using cultural heritage as a lever.
  • Produce knowledge and learning on cultural heritage as leverage for non-competitive sport/physical activity for all.
    Communicate and disseminate shared knowledge on cultural heritage and non-competitive sport/physical activity.

Photo de personnes faisant du sport en plein air

It aimed to achieve the following effects:

  • Raising awareness and building capacities of policymakers and stakeholders on heritage-based non-competitive and regular sport/physical activity strategies.
  • Increasing the adoption of heritage-based non-competitive and regular physical/sport strategies.
  • Enhancing physical active lifestyles and cultural participation and satisfaction in pilot programmes contexts.
  • Strengthening the sense of local and European identity in pilot programmes contexts.
  • Strengthening the attractiveness of pilot programs cities.

Pilot programs included actions focusing on cultural heritages in a territory for new uses such as regular non-competitive physical and sporting activity, including, among others, guided walks along historic routes, gymnastics in cultural spaces and traditional sports. The social impact of these programmes was measured through a study produced in the framework of the project.
In order to strengthen and disseminate knowledge on these topics and to disseminate the SPACHE project, the partners have also produced educational modules as well as various operational tools, such as manuals, to train actors in the sport or cultural sectors.
Finally, the results of the project will be widely disseminated in order to raise awareness among the community and policy makers in each of the partner countries, and in Europe in general!

Revue 55 Sport et CitoyennetéRead the journal :

Sport and Citizenship 55 : enhancing sport and physical activity by culture


Sport et citoyenneté