Yes, the Italians and French Do Workout. Here’s how, when and why.
New Series On Weight Loss
This is the fourth article on my personal weight loss methods learned from the French and Italians. To start from the beginning, you can read the other articles on: French and Italian Diet Methods on Time, Culture, and The Planand come back to keep reading.
In this fourth part, I wanted to give you my weight loss secrets that are based on using a French and Italian fitness, exercise and workout schedule. I will give you a general outline on how I fit in exercise and some tricks you can use to plan different types of fitness into your busy schedule. I have incorporated exercise into my daily life, mostly forced really, a lot because of how the French live,and the obligation to integrate into the French lifestyle.
But being forced to adapt to a country’s culture has its benefits. One being that you can take the good from it, and I believe that the good aspects of France and Italy, the slow lifestyle and emphasis on moving your body helps these populations to stay leaner and slimmer than in other cultures.
How the French and Italian Culture Breed An Emphasis on Physical Activity
Have you ever visited or lived in France or Italy? Maybe you were surprised about the large open lands used for agriculture and the crowded cities and towns that you cannot drive in. Perhaps you adored the small villages where there is just about everything you need to survive.The long history of both countries and how the urban system is organized is one aspect of how these cultures are forced to move and exercise.
But then there are the fitness centers, tennis courts, and swimming pools that are in most towns and in all major cities. And the long traditions in both countries for biking and bike racing. La Tour de France and The Giro d’Italia are major bike races held in both countries. And certain traditions that are handed down from generation to generation, like a long family walk after the big Sunday lunch or the afternoon promenade with a few friends or the dog.
But did you also know that owning a car is very expensive in both countries, as well as petrol (gas) prices? And that in Italy, especially, house prices are so high it makes it difficult to own a house and it is normal to live in an apartment. You must get out daily and get some fresh air in the park if there is no big backyard to sit in your lounge chair. And then, oh la la, there are the old buildings and apartments without elevators. Walking up and down five flights of stairs a few times a day? That will build your heart muscle.
Finally, if you are a parent or caregiver for young children there is another aspect to consider: getting your kids to school in the morning, lunch time pickup, end of day school run again. There is no yellow school bus picking up your kids on the corner and dropping them off after a school day is over. You walk your kids to school or drive them there. Park. Get out and walk them in school and back out again, two times a day.
And I am sure there is more I am not thinking about now. But I do know that these two cultures breed movement.
A Look On How the French and Italians Fit In Fitness
So the lifestyle breeds movement, but that is not all. There are the gyms all over. Kind of like you would imagine in other countries. The big buildings with workout rooms and machines for the muscles. These are popular with the French, but it requires (like in most countries) a big financial commitment, so you must have the money and be motivated to workout. I belong to an association that hires a certified fitness instructor, and we use the dance studio at the local public school to do gym classes. This is perfect for me because the school is near my house and the cost is very reasonable for a budget. Then there are the public swimming pools, quite popular in both countries and financed by the towns, so the fees to swim are reasonable.
But probably the main way that these two cultures fit in fitness is the forced slower mode of living, this based on how the lifestyle and structure of the historical urban planning which encourages walking and biking. In both countries you have the big cities, like Rome, Milano, Paris and Bordeaux where it is better to use cheap public transportation to get in and use your feet to walk around (and where owning a car is nearly impossible).
It goes further. Both Italy and France, such as you find in most European countries, have centered towns and villages where most of the shopping and businesses are located. Moving out of these busier areas, there are the stretches of agricultural lands where you have farms and houses. The layout of larger towns and villages encourages the ‘fit in’ fitness because even in the larger towns the center part, the centre ville is still busy, especially around the food markets and administration buildings. You are forced to either drive in a park in a pubic parking and walk, take public transportation, or walk from your apartment to the center of town.
By adapting on your side some European slow living methods to stay fit, you too can move towards a weight loss plan that will help you moderate your stress level, feel good, lose weight and keep it off.
Getting Into The European Secret Ways to Stay Fit
I know what you might be thinking.
I don’t live in France or Italy (or Europe!), how can I use these fitness methods to stay slim?
Walk. Bike. Swim. Gym. Yoga. Pilates. Gas Prices. Using your car less. Family fitness time. Afternoon promenade with friends or family. A long hike. Skiing trip. Taking public transportation. Slowing down. Using the stairs because there is no elevator.
What I Do for Fitness and How You Can Fit Exercise in Your Busy Life
It really comes down to attitude, time and commitment.
Do you want to lose weight, feel good in your body and have a better mental outlook? Do you want to find a healthy way to fight stress in your life?
You have to move your body and fit in exercise. And you have to do this five or six times a week. And it doesn’t have to be at the gym or running for 5 miles a day. Plan and fit it in like the Europeans do: just part of your lifestyle.
First Step Towards Fitness: Take Out a Paper and Brainstorm
You may not live in Europe, but there are ways to move more. Take a piece of paper and write how: (here are some examples)
- using the stairs all the time, even in buildings that have elevators
- taking a walk during lunchtime at work
- planning a weekly fitness outing with family
- organizing a hike, swim, tennis, with friends
- using the car less and the bike more
- using public transportation more
- joining a gym and making a commitment to go on a regular basis
- finding a workout buddy, power walking friend to keep each other motivated
- walk the dog more!
And take that piece of paper and make a few copies. For your refrigerator, desk at work, in your car. And then do it. Add those lifestyle fitness tricks into your daily plans.
Here is My Fitness Schedule on a Typical Week
Monday: 30 minute early morning power walk to get motivated and focused for the week ahead + one hour in the evening at the gym (half hour cardiovascular workout and half hour muscle work)
Tuesday: one hour at the gym (half hour cardiovascular workout and half hour muscle work)
Wednesday: Pilates class and half hour cardiovascular workout
Friday: one hour at the gym (half hour cardiovascular workout and half hour muscle work) and one hour power walk with a friend in the forest
Saturday: walk with the kids at the forest or at a walking trail near our house
Sunday: 45 minute power walk with a friend or alone
That comes to about 3 hours of power walks, one hour of Pilates, 90 minutes of cardiovascular work, 90 minutes of muscle work.
And I can tell you that all those hours (at least seven a week) save me more than that for sleeping soundly (and needing less sleep), helping stress and not getting sick. What do you think?
Weight Loss Methods. Stay Motivated!
Do you feel motivated or I don’t know if I can do this? You can! Why wait for tomorrow? Every step counts, as long as you are moving forward. One key to stay motivated is to never let moving your body, exercise, or your commitment to fitness to be less than a priority. It is hard to get back on the move again once you stop for a few weeks.
But, I do know that life can be busy and sometimes it is not easy to stay on a weight loss track. There are our (bad) habits that get in the way, or sometimes, the food we eat can cause addictions and lead to easily falling away from our commitments. This happens when we eat too much sugar. We can become addicted to sugar, like a drug. And if you want to know more, keep on reading this series, because sugar addiction and cravings are the subject of article number five, coming soon on the blog.
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