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Health

How to Walk Like a Parisian: the Practice of Active Transport

If you’re anything like me, you may be slow to fall in love with the practice of physical fitness, but you love what it does for you. You make excuses to avoid hitting the gym (even though, say, it’s right down the hall), going to yoga, or biking, or doing any of the things you know you “should” do. But then, once you do — you feel great, and afterwards, even better! So why don’t you do it? For me, I think I’ve built it up into a task — something un-fun or un-natural. Which makes it become something that I can easily put off or avoid, even though it’s the best thing for me, and makes me feel fantastic as soon as I’ve accomplished even seven minutes of a great workout.

But what if it didn’t always have to be something that you avoided? What if it was just a natural part of your every day life — that got you to where you need to go? Plus, what if you got to wear your street clothes while doing it? It turns out, that part of the reason women in Paris keep so fit, is because they walk a lot — and, they take public transport. The stops are far apart, and there’s an important amount of walking to do both above and below ground. We wonder why they can eat whatever they want and not gain weight (within reason). But in fact, it’s partly because they are on the move — it’s the art of practicing ‘active transport’.

Here’s what Mireille Guiliano has to say on the matter, author of French Women Don’t Get Fat: “I would encourage you to look at every-day movement, what you do in street clothes, as essential to your overall wellness, and not to see exertion as something assigned to the gym. It may mean extra steps in the yard, or not using interoffice mail. Or it may mean riding your bike to work. The point is to practice as much physical exertion for as many moments of the day as you can manage. This is the surest way to overcome the mental hurdle which the idea of regular exercise presents to some of us.” http://frenchwomendontgetfat.com/what-it-means-to-move-like-a-french-woman

‘Active transport’ is you, physically moving to where you need to get to, each day. Like our friends in Paris, why not incorporate movement into your every day life?

Here are a few ways you too, can walk like a Parisian:

– Walk to your kid’s school, the corner store, the park, the gym — or walk to buy flowers.
– Bike to the corner store. Dangle daisies and a baguette out of a wicker basket. Look demure (tie small scarf around your neck, and wear stripes for full effect).
– Walk someone’s dog, walk your own dog. Walk your cat (no, don’t walk your cat, no one in Paris walks their cat).
– Walk UP to an escalator, look at it, and instead — take the stairs.
– Walk UP to an escalator, look at it, and walk UP the escalators.
– Get dropped off or park 15 minutes from your destination. Walk quickly enough to encourage a dewy flush. Five points if you’re meeting a cute coffee date.
– Go to the Mall. Walk two or three levels and pretend you just strolled the entire Champs Elysee, or the Jardin du Luxembourg. Treat yourself to a Macaron — you deserve it.
– If you don’t live in a town, or a city, go for a walk in the country (French women have country homes too)!

But in all seriousness, what could ‘active transport’ do for you?

For me, when I was driving to work, I weighed about seven pounds heavier than I do now. And ever since I began the practice of ‘active transport’ and started taking transit and walking, I have noticed a difference.

Coupled with my fitness routine — weight training at the gym, practicing yoga and occasionally biking, I’m feeling better. Could I do more? Always. Do I need motivation? Yes. But does it work for me and is it EASY? Yes. And I think the key is that the easier (and more fun), it is to do what your body needs to keep it healthy, the more likely you are to do it.

So, step into those street clothes, grab a scarf and pick up a charming wicker basket — and walk, like a Parisian.

Article written by:

Rachel Connell is an advertising director and writer, living in Toronto, Ontario. With over 18 years of working experience across cultural norms in both South East Asia and North America, she contributes to Martha's workshop and brings us her unique perspective.

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