Home > Uncategorized > More validation for shunning the gym or Why I love to walk

More validation for shunning the gym or Why I love to walk

August 6th, 2009


When I began exploring bringing the French and Italian lifestyles into my world, one thing I jumped on, embraced wholeheartedly was the French disdain for going to the gym to “work out.” I don’t know if this is true in real life France, but my French friend who now lives in the states, agreed that by joining a gym (and liking it) she was really going against her upbringing.

Anyway, I have had gym memberships over the years to either lose or maintain my weight. But at some point along the way I began to hate the whole idea. With a passion. I was always astonished at the people who waited for the close parking spot at the gym so they didn’t have far to walk. I dislike the idea of spending money and time on something I find unpleasant.

 I would rather, as these French lifestyle books recommend, incorporate excercise naturally into my day, by walking everywhere or bicyling (SO MUCH FUN!)  by using my body to MOVE during everyday, normal activity. So imagine my glee this morning when I saw this article on yahoo news from Time Magazine, which validates this belief:

Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin


In this article, author John Cloud looks at studies examing whether the type of exercise done at the gym leads to weight loss. Findings increasingly show while there is an increase in the number of Americans excerising , the obesity rate continues to rise.  It seems that strenous exercise increases your appetite and also, that sometimes we “reward” ourselves for our exercise program by stopping at Starbucks for a muffin afterward.

In addition, a recent study comparing women who were asked to work out with a trainer for six months and those told to maintain their regular physical activity, showed the same amount of weight loss in both groups.

By the way, Cloud does point out the benefits of exercise. People who exercise, he says, are at significantly lower risk for all manner of diseases, particular those of the heart and less likely to develop cancer, diabetes and many other illnesses. In addition, exercise also improves your mental health and cognitive ability.

Here’s the kicker:

“But there’s some confusion about whether it is exercise — sweaty, exhausting, hunger-producing bursts of activity done exclusively to benefit our health — that leads to all these benefits or something far simpler: regulary moving during our waking hours. We all need to move more  — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says our leisure-time physical activity (including things like golfing, gardening and walking) has decreased since the late 1980s, right around the time the gym boom really exploded … ”

He goes on to write that the problem ultimately is “not exercise itself but the way we’ve come to define it.

“Many obesity researchers now believe that very frequent, low-level physical activity — the kind humans did for tens of thousands of years before the leaf blower was invented — may actually work better for us than the occasional bouts of exercise you get as a gym rat. ‘You cannot sit still all day long and then have 30 minutes of exercise without producing stress on the muscles,” says Hans-Rudolf Berthoud, a neurobiologist at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center who has studied nutrition for 20 years. ‘The muscles will ache, and you may not want to move after. But to burn calories, the muscle movements don’t have to be extreme. It would be better to distribute the movements throughout the day.’

“For his part, Berthoud rises at 5 a.m. to walk around his neighborhood several times. He also takes the stairs when possible. ‘Even if people can get out of their offices, out from in front of their computers, they go someplace like the mall and then take the elevator,’ he says. ‘This is the real problem, not that we don’t go to the gym enough.’


Well, there’s my thought for the day … I’m off to walk with my kids to the park.

PS these three photos were taken of chic women walking in NYC, although to be honest, in the last one I didn’t notice if the woman had walked there. I was too busy eyeing her stylish shoes. For all I know, she got out of her limo that had pulled up in front of Barneys …

PS As you can tell by my photo quality, The Satorialist, I am not …nyc2007-0321


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  1. Adrienne
    August 6th, 2009 at 10:11 | #1


    I love your blog and look forward to reading it every morning with my coffee.
    Thank you for posting that article! I am a “gym rat” and have been for a long time. I’m tired of the guilt feelings I have when I miss the gym or I don’t work out hard enough. It seems that it’s never enough. Hopefully, this article and your post will change my outlook and get me out into the world more rather than going nowhere on a treadmill 🙂


  2. August 6th, 2009 at 10:50 | #2

    Like Adrienne, your blog is my morning fix. It reads well with coffee!

    My biggest regret about leaving downtown for the ‘burbs is I can’t walk my errands. Starbucks, the bank, grocery store…etc are only two miles away, but the roads leading to them aren’t walkable.

  3. August 6th, 2009 at 13:57 | #3


    By the look of those shoes on the woman in that last photo I would say a limo was definitely involved!!

    But I get where you are coming from in this article. I loved letting go of the guilt I used to feel at hating formal exercise. I now know that walking, riding my bike, cleaning the bathroom, etc are all perfectly wonderful exercises that invoke both practicality and fun! Exercise shouldn’t be something that one first has to schedule time in their day for and then TRAVEL to get to a specified place in which to move…the opportunities are everywhere and can be done while doing the things you need to get done.

  4. August 6th, 2009 at 16:47 | #4

    Best post ever! I totally agree. When I walk regularly just to get around during the day, I always feel better and when done regularly, release weight. Walking is a powerful thing, and so pleasureable at the same time.

  5. Courtney
    August 6th, 2009 at 22:30 | #5

    I went to the gym about 6-7 years ago to “tone up” and all the exercise just made me really hungry and I ended up getting weight. It was ridiculous. After a while I just went for the low-key yoga classes. After I stopped going to the gym altogether I lost the weight again. I really don’t think I’d join one after that whole episode.
    I really believe in keeping yourself moving everyday and walking as much as possible. It works.

    By the way.. I enjoy reading your blog every day!

Comments are closed.

What is it about those Italian women? You know the ones I’m talking about: beautiful, sexy, dressed to the nines just to take the kids to the park. They have a certain something that is indefinable. It is in the way they dress, the way they prepare their meals, the way they spend their leisure time.

It is because they know the importance of la bella figura. Roughly translated from Italian, it means putting you best foot forward in everything you do. It means cutting a beautiful figura. The opposite of la bella figura is la brutta figura, which is what someone might say about the falling down drunken guy at the party or the super tackily dressed woman at church. It means ugly figure.

La bella figura is much more than your appearance. It goes much deeper than that. It is about how you act. It is about how you treat others. It is about how you care for yourself, your home and your family. Living a life in line with la bella figura doesn’t take money. In fact, it is more about how to have class without a lot of money.

Someone who exudes la bella figura will have clean, pressed clothes and be well groomed. They will not be rude or sloppy. Their fingernails will be impeccably groomed. Their hair shiny and clean and their shoes will be polished. They will not have stray threads hanging from their suit hems. They will not be driving a car in need of the car wash.

La bella figura means driving that 15 year old car and meticulously cleaning it and caring for it. It means keeping your belongings in good repair. It means taking time to clean your house and not cluttering it up with meaningless objects.

When you focus all your spare energy, time and money on the things that bring you the most amount of pleasure, then you are truly living a life in line with la bella figura. The best part about it is that you don’t have to be Italian to do so. You just have to think like an Italian.

Italian children are raised to present la bella figura in whatever they do. From the time they are small and are groomed perfectly to attend church or school, they know that appearances count. They count because it is the first thing people judge about you. That first impression does matter. Appearances are also important because when you take the time to look nice, you are showing that you care about yourself. When you care enough to look good, it shows you have good healthy self esteem. Nothing is more attractive than self confidence.

In addition, dressing nice also shows respect for others. If you invite people over for dinner and greet them in flip flops, baggy sweats and a stained shirt, it is really disrespectful to them. The same if you dress sloppy to go to church or even to the market. By dressing nicely and being well groomed, you show respect for everyone in your world.

Having la bella figura means presenting yourself in the best light possible in all your interactions.