Sex, stairs and the Metro: How the Parisians really stay in shape

If you want to get in shape but you don't want to do anything ridiculous like giving up cheese - you could just follow the daily fitness example of Parisians.

Sex, stairs and the Metro: How the Parisians really stay in shape
Photo: Vince42/FLickr

A question asked by many is how come residents of the French capital are so famously trim and toned – (although a few overweight ones have been spotted in recent years) – despite their love of food.

It's thanks, just in part, to their way of incorporating exercise into everyday life. As well as knowing when to stop eating the cheese.

Here a few tips to get in shape the Parisian way.

1. Take the stairs

Paris is a city in which you may not have much choice in the matter. Only 50 out of 303 metro stations have a lift, and they are about as rare in old apartment buildings, so whether it's negotiating six flights of stairs up to your chambre de bonne or the 104 steps to street level at Abbesses next time the lift decides to take a break, a workout is inevitable on any given day.

(Gael Varoquaux/Flickr)

And if you really like stairs you could of course climb up some of the city's most famous tourist attractions (although Parisians themselves are unlikely to do this). Why not mount the Iron Lady or even better just pop up to Montmartre, perched as it is on the city's highest hill.


2. Run for the Metro

Parisian commuters love sprint training. And most of them do it every morning on the way to work when they hurtle down the last few steps and across the platform to catch the Metro before it departs – think of it as subterranean interval training. They also give their arm muscles a workout as they force the closing Metro doors back open.

Or you could just take the safe option and jog on the spot until the next one turns up two minutes later. But that's not very Parisian.


3. Just forget the Metro altogether

Alternatively, ask yourself if you need to take the Metro at all. With stops an average of only 500 metres apart, sometimes you're just as quick – or even quicker – walking. As the map below shows.

Paris Metro map shows it may be quicker to walk

Paris is a compact city, only six miles across, and you can walk from one end to the other in less than two hours. Add this to the fact that driving, never mind parking, isn't exactly the most relaxing activity the capital has to offer, and you'll see why Paris is a city of walkers – so make like the locals and put your best foot forward.

4. Get on your bike (if you can find one)


And when you don't want to walk, skip the Uber and jump on a Vélib or one of other bikes that you'll see parked around the city. A hit with Parisians, Vélib has been going for more than ten years now and has the highest market penetration of any bike-sharing scheme globally, with one bike per 97 inhabitants.

Bikes are a great way to beat the traffic getting from A to B, as well as a workout – think of it as a spin class with a view.

5. Have sex like as a Parisian

There's no doubt that to faire crac crac or faire boom boom as (some of) the locals would say is a great way of keeping fit.

In fact it's probably Parisians' favourite way of keeping fit. A study revealed the average resident of the French capital has had 19 lovers, eight more than the national average.

Typical Parisian 'has had 19 sexual partners'

6. Head to the park for a walk or a jog

Paris parks are not reserved for the poseurs' promenade – from local games of pétanque to pitching up at the ping pong tables, making use of the basketball hoops (or the Instagrammers' favourite, the technicolour court at Pigalle) to climbing at Buttes Chaumont (19th Arrondissement), horse riding on 28km of trails or rowing on the Lac Inférieur at the Bois de Boulogne, there are outdoor activities galore on offer, all of which feel a lot more like fun than keeping fit.

The most popular is of course just going for a run and the paths of parks such as Butte Chaumont, Monceau and Montsouris are packed with Parisian joggers.

7. Buy fresh fruit and veg from the market

The lack of large supermarkets due to the city's limited space is no bad thing – because in Paris you can buy quality fresh fruit and veg at the numerous markets and stalls known as “primeurs”. These markets are popular with the locals and great places to get produce.

Not only will you be eating fresh, natural, seasonal produce, but you're getting a walk while you're buying it too – and a workout carrying it all up the stairs when you get home. 

If shopping for shoes is more your bag (or indeed for said bag/Breton top/cashmere sweater), bear in mind that the fashionable Parisians' favourite leisure activity counts as cardio too.

8. Throw a party and dance till dawn 

(Photo: Icons)

Given that Parisians aren't exactly prone to rolling out of pubs and into clubs, it's no surprise that the house party (or tiny flat party) is considered the chic option among the city's hot young things.

A browse of the Instagram It Girls' accounts also demonstrates that the private soirée is the fashionable way to work out, with (semi-ironic) Johnny Hallyday dance marathons among the trends. Surrendering to the beat behind closed doors is the perfect way to get the heart rate going while preserving the legendary Parisian public dignity.

9. Eat Parisian portions

(Dana Mcmahan/Flickr)

Of course there isn't much point in all this exercise if you're going to lose it in the local patisserie and undo all your good work (however seemingly effortlessly it's incorporated into everyday activities) with a baked goods binge.

Follow the Parisian example and don't deprive yourself, but stick to small portions – the city could have invented the concept that a little of what you fancy does you good.

10. Sign up for the most picturesque personal endurance tests. 


There are multiple running events in Paris, which take full advantage of the city's views. As well as the Paris marathon and half-marathon there are also 10km races in almost every arrondissement (check with the Town Hall when your next one takes place).

These races are really good ways of discovering parts of Paris you'd never normally go to. And you get to run on the city's famous cobbles without the fear of being knocked over by a car.

You can also sign up to one of the regular roller blading tours of the city if you prefer wheels on your feet.


Or if long runs are not your thing you could just join Parisians in running across pedestrian crossings in the knowledge that the cars are unlikely to stop. 

These multiple daily dashes and sprint finishes will keep you in shape.

This next tip is only for heavy smokers…

11. Social smoke like a Parisian

(Delaney Turner/Flickr)

When it comes to another well-worn resolution, stopping smoking, the ideal of course is to quit completely.

But if that's unlikely for you, at least cut down and stick to Parisian-style social smoking rather than puffing away night and day – restrict yourself to lighting up only en terrasse or over an apéro. Then turn to the electronic cigarette… and then stop completely.

by Lindsey Johnstone

For members


What changes in France in July 2022

Summer's here and the time is right for national celebrations, traffic jams, strikes, Paris beaches, and ... changing the rules for new boilers.

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer holidays

The holiday season in France officially begins on Thursday, July 7th, as this is the date when school’s out for the summer. The weekend immediately after the end of the school year is expected to be a busy one on the roads and the railways as families start heading off on vacation.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer


But it wouldn’t really be summer in France without a few strikes – airport employees at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will walk out on July 1st, while SNCF rail staff will strike on July 6th. Meanwhile Ryanair employees at Paris, Marseille and Toulouse airports will strike on yet-to-be-confirmed dates in July.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect summer in France

Parliamentary fireworks?

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will present the government’s new programme in parliament on July 5th – this is expected to be a tricky day for the Macron government, not only does it not have the parliamentary majority that it needs to pass legislation like the new package of financial aid to help householders deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but opposition parties have indicated that they will table a motion of no confidence against Borne.

Parliament usually breaks for the summer at the end of July, but a special extended session to allow legislation to be passed means that MPs won’t get to go on holiday until at least August 9th. 

Fête nationale

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille which was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. As usual, towns and cities will host parades and fireworks – with the biggest military parade taking place on the Champs-Elysées in Paris – and many stores will remain closed.

As the national holiday falls on a Thursday this year, many French workers will take the opportunity to faire le pont.

Festival season really kicks in

You know summer’s here when France gets festival fever, with events in towns and cities across the country. You can find our pick of the summer celebrations here.

Paris Plages

The capital’s popular urban beaches return on July 9th on the banks of the Seine and beside the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, bringing taste of the seaside to the capital with swimming spots, desk chairs, beach games and entertainment.  

Summer sales end 

Summer sales across most of the country end on July 19th – unless you live in Alpes-Maritimes, when they run from July 6th to August 2nd, or the island of Corsica (July 13th to August 9th).

Tour de France

The Tour de France cycle race sets off on July 1st from Copenhagen and finishes up on the Champs-Elysée in Paris on July 24th.

New boilers

From July 1st, 2022, new equipment installed for heating or hot water in residential or professional buildings, must comply with a greenhouse gas emissions ceiling of 300 gCO2eq/KWh PCI. 

That’s a technical way of saying oil or coal-fired boilers can no longer be installed. Nor can any other type of boiler that exceeds the ceiling.

As per a decree published in the Journal Officiel in January, existing appliances can continue to be used, maintained and repaired, but financial aid of up to €11,000 is planned to encourage their replacement. 

Bike helmets

New standards for motorbike helmets come into effect from July 1st. Riders do not need to change their current helmets, but the “ECE 22.05” standard can no longer be issued – and all helmets sold must adhere to a new, more stringent “ECE 22.06” standards from July 2024

New cars

From July 6th new car models must be equipped with a black box that record driving parameters such as speed, acceleration or braking phases, wearing (or not) of a seat belt, indicator use, the force of the collision or engine speed, in case of accidents.

New cars II

From July 1st, the ecological bonus for anyone who buys an electric vehicle drops by €1,000, while rechargeable hybrids will be excluded from the aid system, “which will be reserved for electric vehicles whose CO2 emission rate is less than or equal to 20g/km”.

What’s in a name?

Historically, the French have been quite restrictive on the use of family names – remember the concern over the use of birth names on Covid vaccine documents? – but it becomes easier for an adult to choose to bear the name of his mother, his father, or both by a simple declaration to the civil status. All you have to do is declare your choice by form at the town hall of your home or place of birth.

Eco loans

In concert with the new boiler rules, a zero-interest loan of up to €30,000 to finance energy-saving renovations can be combined with MaPrimeRénov’, a subsidy for financing the same work, under certain conditions, from July 1st.

Rent rules

Non-professional private landlords advertising properties for rent must, from July 1st, include specific information about the property on the ad, including the size of the property in square metres, the area of town in which the property is in, the monthly rent and any supplements, whether the property is in a rent-control area, and the security deposit required. Further information, including the full list of requirements for any ad, is available here.

Perfume ban

More perfumes are to be added to a banned list for products used by children, such as soap-making kits, cosmetic sets, shampoos, or sweet-making games, or toys that have an aroma.

Atranol, chloroatranol (extracts of oak moss containing tannins), and methyl carbonate heptin, which smells like violets, will be banned from July 5th, because of their possible allergenic effects.

Furthermore, 71 new allergenic fragrances – including camphor, menthol, vanilin, eucalyptus spp. leaf oil, rose flower oil, lavendula officinalis, turpentine – will be added to the list of ingredients that must be clearly indicated on a toy or on an attached label.

Ticket resto limits

The increased ticket resto limit ended on June 30th, so from July 1st employees who receive the restaurant vouchers will once again be limited to spending €19 per day in restaurants, cafés and bars. The limit was increased to €38 during the pandemic, when workers were working from home.