Kaunas is the second-largest city in Lithuania and an important centre of Lithuanian economic, academic, cultural and sport life. In a country where basketball is the most popular sport, the city of 295 000 inhabitants started voluntary health promotion policies in the 1990s, increasingly focusing on offering active possibilities to its residents.
In its Strategic development Plan 2016-2022, Kaunas intends to renew and develop the city’s pedestrian zones and infrastructures to increase the safety of pedestrian traffic. The city wants to develop non-motorized transport thanks to the equipment and renovation of pedestrian walkways, cycle and other non-motorized transport infrastructure. In the city center, a speed limit of 30 km/h has been implemented on the streets where bikes share the roads with other vehicles. Kaunas has also created residential zones, where speed is limited to 20 km/h and pedestrians have priority rights over vehicles.
Since 2010 the Municipality has been expanding the network of bike roads to reach 176 km of bike roads across its territory. In summer 2016 Kaunas launched a new self-service bicycle rental system, which allows anyone to rent a bike in special self-service points located in different places around the city. In 2017, the city started its Bicycle Revolution, choosing the direction of an environmentally friendly city and encouraging citizens to opt for a bicycle in their every day trips. Kaunas intends to become the first city in the Baltic States that is fully tailored for cyclists, creating new bicycle paths, green lanes for cyclists on streets, pavements tailored for bicycles, and a thousand new bicycle stands. In Kaunas, the city buses and trolleybuses carry bicycles for free.
Kaunas’ Strategic development Plan 2016-2022 seeks to increase the effective use of sport infrastructure by renovating and modernizing sport facilities and by adapting urban public spaces, recreational spaces and parks for sport activities and organization of active leisure. The city has created an interactive sport system including information on sport objects, physical training and sport organizations, a calendar of sport events, an electronic map of the places intended for sport.
Since 2015, Kaunas offers free training and workouts through the “Be Active and Fit” initiative. Every year, the project attracts hundreds of residents who benefit from classes led by professional trainers. People enjoy activities such as yoga, linear dancing, boxing, zumba, muscle building, seniors’ exercises and even dances for parents and children. In summer, Kaunas residents are invited to move out of gyms and participate in outdoor workouts.
Every summer, the city implements a bicycle challenge to promote cycling as well as physical activity. This year, the challenge “Kaunas is jumping on a bicycle” invited residents to have fun and increasingly incorporate an eco-friendly bicycle into their daily routines. Participants were invited to share photos of the completed tasks with the project organizers and the best and most original ones were rewarded with attractive prizes.
In 2002, Kaunas launched the network of Kaunas District Health Promoting Schools. The network currently unites 42 pre-school, primary and general education institutions from across Kaunas with the aim of strengthening the physical and mental health of the members of the school community by creating a health-friendly physical and psychosocial environment. This initiative is coordinated by the Education Center, which prepares the network’s annual program, methodological material for teachers and parents, reports, projects and organizes regional events (competitions, “health waves”, health hikes, camps, competitions, educational good practice trips, etc.). Each school in the network has its own coordinator and coordinating council, develops the institution’s strategic 3-5 year health promotion programs, which cover various areas (physical activity and physical education, healthy physical environment; healthy eating).
In Kaunas, schools are fully equipped with sporting facilities to allow students and members of the community to cultivate a healthy lifestyle (stadiums, gyms, choreography and aerobics halls). Every year former students take part the swimming program in the Kaunas center sport school swimming pool funded by Kaunas city municipality and Swimming Federation
Kaunas also offers activities for children to be active outside of schooltime. Every weekday, “Be Active and Fit” program arranges workouts with professional trainers for kids. The project also made a promotional video clip with one of the most popular rappers in Lithuania, to showcase that the activities can be attended by all. In 2007 the International Children’s Games was held in Kaunas on 4-9 July 2017 and gathered 1.5 thousand participants, with Kaunas’ children fully involved.
In order to purposefully improve the health literacy, mental and physical health of employees and change their dietary habits, the Kaunas City Municipality Public Health Bureau initiated the “Healthy Work Team” project that rewards the “Healthiest Kaunas City Work Team”.
Kaunas encourages the use of active modes of transportation for workers in the city, building bike-sharing service in front of company offices. All cyclist friendly institutions are welcome to mark areas near their offices with “Like Bike” sign and join the “Like Bike Kaunas” Facebook page. Kaunas also incites companies to jump in the summer bicycle challenge.