Hello my dear readers!
I hope you’ve all had a great weekend. As for me, I went on a day trip out to Mont Saint-Michel and then I spent a couple of hours in Rennes where I took advantage of the town’s public bicycling system.
All the walking and bicycling that day was invigorating and loads of fun. But it also made me think a lot about the cultural differences that can have an impact on how little or how much we move.
A view of Mont Saint Michel
The first obvious difference between people in the U.S. and in France is the amount that people walk. In the U.S. people drive everywhere and everyone has their own cars. But here in France, people walk everywhere. They walk to school, to work, to meet up with friends and they walk to the market or the local shops to buy stuff.
In terms of staying in shape, when you walk a lot it’s really hard to get fat! Of course, not everyone in France is skinny but you will also have a hard time finding an obese-looking person. For French people, walking is just a normal part of life.
While they’re walking, they’re not counting all the calories that they’re burning. They’re just walking simply because they have somewhere to get to.
Look at all that sidewalk space!
It’s true, urban planning also plays a role in how much or how little we walk. Towns and cities in Europe are incredibly friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists. It’s a shame that this is not the case in the U.S. where towns are not designed with the pedestrian in mind. Schools and shops are placed so far away from residential areas that it makes walking not only impractical, but also quite dangerous.
Who wants to cross an interstate highway on foot for a carton of milk?
Another obvious difference are the public transportation systems that bring people outside and encourage physical movement. There are public trains, buses, boats, metro systems and my very favorite–the public biking system.
They have the Velib in Paris and Le Vélo Star in Rennes. Anyone can use the bicycles. They’re cheap, it’s a great way to see all the sights, the bike lanes everywhere make biking safe and it’s a lot of fun!
Someone’s Brilliant Idea: Cheap Public Bicycles Everywhere
But even if you find yourself in a culture where walking and biking are not a normal part of everyday life, there are still many creative ways that you can get yourself out there and start moving. Take the stairs, park the car far away so you can walk, go on easy strolls with friends.
Walking, hiking, bicycling… these gentle but frequent movements are the foundation of fitness. It’s much easier to stay in shape if you are constantly moving your body.
As Mark’s Daily Apple put it in his Fitness Plan So Easy A Caveman Did It, it’s not about burning calories, it’s about maintaining the movement and the ability to move.
The “Frequent And Small” Movement