Fitness and Sport for Expats in Brazil

Submitted: April 2014


A short walk to Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, early on a weekend morning, is all that is needed to convince you that the Brazilians take fitness very seriously. The wide promenade will be teeming with cyclists, roller-skaters and joggers. The beach itself has volley ball nets strung along its length and there are also small football pitches and even gym equipment spots set up; most will be busy.

Most cities are well-equipped with commercial chain gyms which may offer not only standard gym and weight-lifting equipment but also massage, yoga and other classes. Often personal training is included in the package. They are relatively cheap to join. It is also cheap and easy to find a personal trainer who will work with you on the beach, or in one of the many parks dotted round the cities. There are also smaller individual academias which tend to vary in which services they provide. Swimming pools can be found in both academias and the chain gyms. Public swimming pools are hard to find in Brazil. Rio has a large saltwater one called Piscinão de Ramos by Ramos beach; but most local people use the sea as it is free.

Martial arts are very popular in Brazil and it is not hard to find somewhere that will offer classes. Brazil has its own form of ju-jitsu which concentrates on teaching ground fighting; you may even consider trying Capoeira, which is Brazil’s own martial art, and quite unlike most others.     


Needless to say football is by far and away the most popular sport in Brazil. If you want to play football, a good place to start might be to try the football pitches on the beaches and in the parks; you may be able to join a game, at the very least you may be able to pick up some useful information. Depending on your age, you may also be able to attend a course at one of the many football schools in Brazil; there is more information available on these here. If you are interested in watching professional football, Brazil has over 400 teams; there are 24 in Rio de Janeiro alone. There is a fixture list available here which shows the teams, times and stadiums.  The spectators can be almost as passionate as the players, and the atmosphere and noise in the stadiums may be quite unlike anything you have witnessed in your home country.  Because of the interest in football in Brazil, many bars and cafes in the cities also offer televised international football. There is also a hybrid football/volleyball game (futevolei), which you can watch being played on the public courts on the beaches.

Volleyball is also very popular game in Brazil. It is possible to hire courts on beaches and in public parks, or just join an existing game. You can also find volleyball schools being run on the beaches who will welcome you. Brazil also hosts international volleyball and beach volleyball competitions which are very popular with spectators.

Cycling is popular and it is possible to hire bikes. In Rio you can buy a pass from BikeRio for R$10 for 30 days which allows you have the use of a bike for rides of up to 60 minutes at a time, they are kept at 60 locations around the city, and you can drop the bike off at any one of them. Their website is here. If you are considering cycling around a city, you should bear in mind that driving standards can be quite poor. You should also learn which areas to avoid; some of the favelas can be quite dangerous for someone who looks out of place, and are not somewhere you want to be stopping to fix a puncture.