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Archive for September 27th, 2010

Personal trainer showing a client how to exerc...
A Non-French gym. Image via Wikipedia

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

This morning I was reading an article from Reuters about how the French culture is not adopting the “gym culture” as readily as people in the U.S., Spain and the United Kingdom. One of the reasons given for the French reluctance to leave the outdoors and go workout in a gym? The tendency of the French to play football, tennis and go cycling.

Now the gym industry is trying to determine the best ways to get people in France off their football fields, tennis courts and off their bikes so they can go work out in a gym. I find this really interesting because here in the U.S., people are more likely to go work out in a gym, compartmentalizing exercise into a 30-minute or 1 hour segment of their week. While in France, people tend to walk daily, eat smaller portions and incorporate exercise into their daily routine.  In the U.S., where obesity is a huge concern, we have created a sedentary lifestyle (suburbs, car based cities, supersized portions and a fast food mentality). Meals in France are more leisurely, people often shop each day for the evening meal. Meals are more often lingered over, a time for socializing and conversation, not wolfing down food while sitting in front of the television (which, I admit I’ve been guilty of at times.).

So, what’s wrong with this picture? For one thing, going to the gym when you have no other alternative for exercise is better than not doing anything. I am not anti-gym. In the U.S. our gyms and personal trainers have come a long way to helping more people get fit and adopt a healthier lifestyle. But to expect a culture to adopt a less healthy lifestyle (by giving up a natural incorporation of exercise and healthy portion size) to help build more gyms in France seems counterproductive.

If the gym industry could embrace France’s culture instead of the other way around, we might have a healthy U.S. gym culture too. For example, creating more outdoor running areas and cycling areas, making areas of the city car free so that only bicycles could ride in that area. Creating more opportunities for exercise in suburbs with more walkable downtown areas. And for those that want to eat more like the French, we already have a great cookbook: The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook! Only $16.50 at Amazon.

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