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


France to roll out ID cards app

Technology is being rolled out to allow people to carry their French ID cards in an app form - and could be rolled out to other cards, including driving licences and cartes de séjour residency cards.

France to roll out ID cards app

Holders of French carte d’identité (ID cards) will soon be able to carry certified digital versions of them on their smartphone or other electronic devices, a decree published in the Journal Officiel has confirmed.

An official app is being developed for holders of the newer credit card-format ID cards that have information stored on a chip. A provisional test version of the app is expected at the end of May.

Users will be able to use the ID card app, when it becomes available, for a range of services “from checking in at the airport to renting a car”, according to Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market.

All French citizens have an ID card, which can be used for proving identity in a range of circumstances and for travel within the EU and Schengen zone – the new app will be in addition to the plastic card that holders already have.

Under the plans, after downloading the app, card holders will need merely to hold the card close to their phone to transfer the required information. According to officials, the holder then can decide what information is passed on – such as proof of age, or home address – according to the situation.

The government has not given any examples of situations in which the app would need to be used, but has set out the main principles and the ambition of the plan: to allow everyone to identify themselves and connect to certain public and private organisations, in particular those linked to the France Connect portal.

READ ALSO What is France Connect and how could it make your life simpler?

Cards will continue to be issued for the foreseeable future – this is merely an extension of the existing system.

Only French citizens have ID cards, but if successful the app is expected to be rolled out to include other cards, such as driving licences, cartes de séjour residency cards or even visas. A digital wallet is being developed at the European level – Member States have until September to agree what it could contain.

READ ALSO Eight smartphone apps that make life in France a bit easier