Frenchy Ways to Eat for Pleasure and Good Health: Walks, Runs, Dogs (!), Bikes, Swims, Hikes, You Get the Picture
French ways towards good health include a good amount of physical activity and a good bit of animal companionship. This is the seventh (of seventeen!) way towards a lifestyle on eating for pleasure and good health. The seventh way in a series on French ways towards good health. We know that good health is not obtained by just eating good foods alone, it can be achieved by a combination of factors that differs among each of us. However, regular physical activity is certainly part of a good health continuum. The dog part of the picture?
Animals can be such an important part of our lives, the fact of having an animal to take care of helps to feel connected to the world and be a type of support system for our emotional needs. So this is the dog(!) part of the seventh way to good health: exercise and animal companionship. It doesn’t have to be limited to dogs…what about cats, guinea pigs, birds, fish, even goats? One extra benefit of a dog is that they push you to take them out for a walk. In France dogs are welcomed just about anywhere and even in restaurants. The dogs sit under their owner’s chairs during the meal…How do these dogs stay so calm (and they do stay calm) with all the food and the food smells everywhere?
Walks, runs, biking, swimming, gardening
It is not how much you do, what you do, or how well you do…just do it! Every little bit counts, don’t think otherwise that 10 minutes here or there will not make a difference. Not doing anything will make a difference. A big meal on Sunday lunch? Go out for a family walk afterwards. Kids feeling lazy at home during the weekend? Take them out for a bike ride. Stuck in your cubicle on a beautiful sunny day? Go outside for lunch and take a 10 minute power walk before it is time to return to the cube! Rainy outside? Grab a good raincoat? Very cold out? Wear a hat! No excuses….just do it. Even if your goal is to just “destress” or have a zen moment without any outside distractions. You may find that these regular physical activity outlets will grow into daily habits. As far as the French culture, physical activity such as walking, biking and gardening are part of French history. On one side there is the long history of agricultural influence and working on a farm, on the other side life in small villages and walking/biking to the market or boulangerie to buy bread. Of course you have major cities like Paris with their excellent mass transit system. In Paris, many walk or take the metro to their destination. Why have a car?
Animals are Accepted Almost Everywhere
Having a dog or cat here in France is just part of the culture. These human companions can be taken everywhere, sometimes left to their own lives to discover the neighborhood and return home for warmth and food. Accepted into restaurants, parks, forests…accepted too that these animals will leave their droppings wherever they fall, so watch out where you walk! It has only been recently in some cities (for example in Pau where I live) where public education and fines have been implemented for owners who do not clean up after their pets. A law most French people ignore and most foreigners wish they wouldn’t.
When I was in graduate school a fellow colleague was presenting her PhD. seminar on the effects of pet ownership (or even the influence of a pet in a retirement home, therapy dogs in hospitals etc.) on nutritional intake. Her hypothesis being that older and elderly adults who own pets have less loneliness and depression and better dietary intake. Her study results were just that: elderly ate better when pets were around or they had to take care of a pet. I remember though how she was laughed at by the other professors and co-colleagues on her subject she chose for her PhD. How could you get your PhD. based solely on a study linking pet ownership to better nutritional intake? Thinking now on the subject, it is not so laughable at all, in fact it is obvious: pets and influence of pets can help towards good health, especially as we age. There are readers out there who agree with me. Are you one of them? Does having a pet help your life to stay balanced and eat better? Does your animal motivate you to go out and get more physical activity just because you need to walk them? What are YOUR thoughts…
Finally, as a famous advertisement says: JUST DO IT! Get out there and move…whatever way makes you happy. We all know that happy helps us to stay healthy.