Before he left New York, friends told the writer that "there are no fat people in Paris." What he found is something deeper than the cliche. He's rarely seen "stunningly athletic people either. There just doesn't seem to be much gusto for spending two hours in the gym here. The people don't seem very prone to our extremes. And they are not, to my eyes, particularly thin."
So, what accounts for this middle path of fitness? Coates writes that it's moderate activity all day long that makes a big difference:
Paris requires effort. There are stairs everywhere and the stairs are all but mandatory. In America the stairs are off to the side, and the elevator is prominent. Often, it's the reverse here -- the stairs are out front and often beautifully wrought. It almost feels sinful to take an elevator. There's a strong culture of pedestrianism. The streets belong to the people, and that encourages walking. On a normal day, I can end up walking for an hour or more. There's so much to see. And those who don't walk use the public bike share.