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Thread: Gym culture not working out for the French

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    Elite Member celeb_2006's Avatar
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    Default Gym culture not working out for the French

    Gym culture not working out for the French - Yahoo! News

    PARIS (Reuters Life!) The French may love to look good but few are willing to work up a sweat over it.

    Despite increasing awareness of the benefits of healthy eating and physical exercise, going to the gym in France is still a niche activity that has yet to capture the mainstream.

    France's generous healthcare system, its cultural preference for outdoor sports and its lack of affordable good-quality clubs are seen as reasons behind the country's low rate of gym goers, even relative to laid-back neighbors Spain or Italy.

    "It appears to me that more people are sitting in cafes smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee than working out ... the French don't see fitness as a lifestyle," says American-born fitness consultant Fred Hoffman, who has lived in Paris for 21 years.

    Only 5.4 percent of French people belonged to a health club in 2008, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, compared with 9.5 percent for Italy, 11.9 percent for the United Kingdom and 16.6 percent for Spain.

    The figure doesn't include France's numerous community fitness groups, or "associations," which are entitled to government subsidies and tempt many consumers with cheap prices despite their often unsophisticated facilities.

    Even taking into account this potential numbers gap, mass-market chains Club Med Gym and Fitness First say the $2 billion French market is a particularly tough slog. Property and staff are costly while competition from other sports is fierce.

    "Football, tennis and cycling, those are the top three activities of the French," says Nadege Gaillard, marketing director for Club Med Gym, a Paris-focused brand that has not opened a single new club in nearly a decade. It is due to open a new venue in Paris in 2011.

    Although rival Fitness First has had more luck opening clubs in and out of Paris, it is feeling the heat from the growth of no-frills centers that are stealing customers from pricier venues in a stagnating market.

    "No services, no staff, that's what's growing ... It's a lot simpler just to open a shoebox and throw in some machines," says Michel Parada, who heads Fitness First's French operations.

    NO SWEAT

    Working out also has an image problem in France, where few celebrities seem keen to publicly endorse the mucky business of sweating and straining on a cardio machine.

    Even the sight of President Nicolas Sarkozy in running shoes jogging after his election in 2007 proved too much for some.

    "I would rather see the president in his suit than in his sweat," said philosopher Alain Finkielkraut at the time.

    Consumers seem to prefer the aesthetic appeal of creams and cosmetics that claim to have slimming properties, according to Christophe Anandson of the IHRSA fitness club association.

    "The credulity of the French isn't favoring the growth of the fitness market," he said.

    For those who can afford it, there is also designer gym "L'Usine," a chain of three discreetly chic clubs in Paris and Geneva, which is said to boast singer Lenny Kravitz and actress Melanie Laurent as clients.

    L'Usine co-founder Patrick Rizzo says the club's high prices, luxury layout and upscale equipment serve a "niche" and manage to rise above the troubles of the mass market in France.

    But even he thinks there is a limit to luxury gym growth in Paris and is eyeing possible expansion in Italy or the U.S.

    Some industry figures believe the French market will have a brighter future once the government does more to promote working out as a health measure that could potentially save the healthcare system a lot of time and money.

    Gyms could also do more to respond to French consumer tastes, says consultant Hoffman. He does not think low-cost gyms will be able to hold on to a broad client base, as most French consumers are not experts and need assistance to work out.

    Just as Starbucks and McDonald's have had to fit their menu to France's cultural preferences, clubs could change as well.

    "You've got to get into the French psyche...Maybe a cafe, or a little area for food," Hoffman says.

    "But (the problem) is bigger than that. I don't think it can come from the clubs alone. It's getting people more aware of their wellbeing."

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    Elite Member darksithbunny's Avatar
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    Well I can see why...I have never met a fat French person. ever.

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    Elite Member Laurent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by darksithbunny View Post
    Well I can see why...I have never met a fat French person. ever.
    I can't think of any, either. I remember reading in some silly women's magazine years ago about the "French woman's guide to staying slim" and the gist of it was that the French eat fattening foods, but they're quality, and therefore are satisfied with only a little bit. Maybe that's it or maybe they've got genetically glorious metabolisms.

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    Here we go again... I get the feeling that the picture non-French people have of us is that of the models or the people in the modelling biz who roam Paris's chic-est areas...

    However, it's true that you won't see people so obese that they have to use those motorised chair thingies.

    As to "genetically glorious metabolisms", France is such a melting-pot (or a salad bowl if you wish) that the expression doesn't make sense (but I guess you were joking, Laurent). I've also heard that prepackaged food is far less sweet or salty than in the US. And corn syrup has only appeared in the past few years.
    I don't want to perish like a fading horse - best lyric ever

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    Elite Member Laurent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFolie View Post
    As to "genetically glorious metabolisms", France is such a melting-pot (or a salad bowl if you wish) that the expression doesn't make sense (but I guess you were joking, Laurent).
    I was. I hope you didn't take offense? Not to paint a group with broad strokes, but French women always seem to effortlessly slender, I wondered if they're not just genetically blessed.

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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    I think what happened is that France exiled all of its very overweight people to Louisiana. Exhibit A:


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    Elite Member LaFolie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laurent View Post
    I was. I hope you didn't take offense? Not to paint a group with broad strokes, but French women always seem to effortlessly slender, I wondered if they're not just genetically blessed.

    Oh no, not at all. But yeah, there's quite a big pressure to be slim, that much is true. For instance, a 5'5 tall woman who weighs, let's say 140 lbs is considered chubby, even fat (depends where, of course). Then there are regional variations. Where I used to live, in the South, near the Med, you were either a size 0 or overweight/obese. Not much in-between. In the countryside, I seem to notice there are fewer really skinny people and fewer really overweight people too.
    I don't want to perish like a fading horse - best lyric ever

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    Super Moderator Tati's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laurent View Post
    I remember reading in some silly women's magazine years ago about the "French woman's guide to staying slim" and the gist of it was that the French eat fattening foods, but they're quality, and therefore are satisfied with only a little bit.
    I've read that it's this ^, combined with eating slowly and leisurely, and walking - even if they're not going to the gym, French people move around outdoors and do get exercise (is what I've read). It makes sense, really; a person could spend two hours at the gym and only burn maybe 500 calories, or they could save those 500 by simply skipping the Big Mac or eating smaller portions throughout the day.

    I like exercising and I feel good doing it, but I know I really have to step up the diet aspect to see results... argh.
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    Quote Originally Posted by darksithbunny View Post
    Well I can see why...I have never met a fat French person. ever.
    i have, but not the kind of extremely fat - i mean, those who block the sun - like i've seen in the US.

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by darksithbunny View Post
    Well I can see why...I have never met a fat French person. ever.

    Please allow me to introduce you to Mr. Depardieu

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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    Is he blaming it on prep for his Asterix and Obelisk role?

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    The gym sucks. Every time I got on the treadmill, I felt like a hamster on a wheel. I know I would much rather be outside walking, biking or kicking the soccer ball around with the kids and what prettier place than France to do it?! For me to stick with an exercise program it has to have an element of fun or forget it. I think many of us already spend a good portion of our day doing shit we don't like so it's important to make physical activity fun.
    I'm not quite drunk enough to really care, but is this her violation of her violation of her violation of her violation of probation or her violation of her violation of her violation of her probation????? ~MontanaMama on LL's latest arrest.

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    Elite Member LaFolie's Avatar
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    ^France is not ONE place. I mean, there are lots of places where it's difficult to get outdoor exercise...

    I was thinking of it last time, and yeah, usually, French people go to the gym to tone up / lose weight, not to keep healthy. Not many people who are reasonably slim will go to the gym, they'd rather go on a diet instead. Working out in a gym is really perceived as part of your slimming diet plan, like eating protein shakes.
    I don't want to perish like a fading horse - best lyric ever

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    Super Moderator twitchy2.0's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by darksithbunny View Post
    ...I have never met a fat French person. ever.
    You could have met Danielle..
    Family of dead 22st woman sues crematorium which couldn't cope with size of coffin | Mail Online

    Apparently, France is now 128 on the list of countries by obesity levels with 40.1% of the population overweight.
    http://www.forbes.com/2007/02/07/wor...orldfat_4.html
    "If you are not outraged, then you are not paying attention," Heather Heyer's facebook quote.

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    Quote Originally Posted by twitchy2.0 View Post
    Apparently, France is now 128 on the list of countries by obesity levels with 40.1% of the population overweight.
    World's Fattest Countries - Forbes.com
    Wow, so is Polynesian cuisine heavy on the calories or what?

    Rank Country %
    1. Nauru 94.5
    2. Micronesia, Federated States of 91.1
    3. Cook Islands 90.9
    4. Tonga 90.8
    5. Niue 81.7
    6. Samoa 80.4
    7. Palau 78.4

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