The French devote an average of two hours to physical activity each week. They love to walk. They also play sports and go to the gym. They like to exercise in various ways, but what expressions do the French use to convey the idea? How many ways are there to say “exercise” in French? Let’s find out in this lesson.
One form of exercise is faire du sport (playing sports), and according to Patricia in her video on Antibes, there is no shortage of people qui font leur sport (doing their sporting activities) in Antibes:
Des gens qui font leur sport également... du jogging, du roller, du skateboard, des arts martiaux
Also people who are doing their sporting activities... jogging, rollerskating, skateboarding, martial arts
Caption 17, Mon Lieu Préféré AntibesPlay Caption
In addition, note that when you hear the French talk about faire du sport, they don’t necessarily mean practicing a sport. In fact, faire du sport simply means "to exercise":
Y a pas d'âge pour faire du sport.
There's no age for exercising.Play Caption
People like Amal and Caroline often talk about how they wished they’d exercise more:
Ah, il faudrait que je fasse du sport. -C'est vrai? T'es prête à faire du sport?
Ah, I should exercise. -Is that true? Are you ready to exercise?
Captions 102-103, Amal et Caroline La cigarettePlay Caption
Faire du sport is synonymous with faire de l’exercice (to exercise), so Amal could have said this instead:
Ah, il faudrait que je fasse de l’exercice.
Ah, I should exercise.
Note that when talking about exercising the body, you use the expression faire de l’exercice, which always comes with the definite article l’ (the). Faire un exercice, with the indefinite article un (a), has a slightly different meaning. It just means “to do an exercise." This can be a physical activity:
On va faire un petit exercice.
We're going to do a little exercise.
Caption 72, Marie & Jeremy Candice et son coachPlay Caption
Or it can be any type of exercise, such as a learning exercise:
L'élève qu'on voit ouvrir son manuel pour faire un exercice, peut-être voir une partie de cours
The student that you see opening his book to do an exercise, maybe to see a part of the lesson
Caption 14, Le Journal Manuels scolairesPlay Caption
As you many have noticed, exercice as a noun is more or less a direct cognate of "exercise." Its verb form, exercer, mainly means "to exercise" in the sense of exercising or practicing a profession:
Le prévenu encourt une interdiction d'exercer.
The defendant risks being banned from exercising his profession.Play Caption
The reflexive form s’exercer takes on another meaning: “to train” or “to practice” any type of activity.
On peut s’exercer à chanter.
One can practice singing.
Finally, “to exert oneself” in English is not s’exercer in French but rather se dépenser, with the emphasis on expending some energy. In the example below, aller se dépenser involves a physical workout:
Et si vous alliez vous dépenser avec Maxime?
What if you went for a workout with Maxime?Play Caption
The term “workout” doesn’t have a direct translation in French. There are only equivalents like l’exercice physique (physical exercise):
Après l'exercice physique...
After the workout...Play Caption
Or you could say un entraînement for “workout”:
Des vidéos d'entraînement.
Caption 30, Sports Shop D'un sport à l'autrePlay Caption
There you have it. Exercez-vous tous les jours avec Yabla en faisant des exercices! (Practice every day with Yabla by doing exercises!)