This blog is inspired by my recent trip to Viking Land.
I was on a 10 day road trip in Iceland. Glaciers, Floating Icebergs, Magnificent Waterfalls, Volcanic Craters, Lava Fields, Erupting Geysers, Sulphur Hot Springs, Lavender Fields, Green Meadows, Atlantic Ocean, Arctic Ocean, Black Sand Beaches, Dolphins, Hump Back Whales – Breathtakingly Beautiful Country, Incredible Natural Beauty.
While their summer temperatures are also at 5 degrees, we saw so many people camping, hiking, bicycling, swimming, fishing – one could see their love for outdoor activities.
This passion for nature is imbedded in the very heart of the Scandinavian people and is called friluftsliv literally meaning ” open air living”.
So how did I come across this philosophy.
On the Icelandic Air flight from New York to Reikjavik I decided to read the inflight magazine – to get some insights about the country I was visiting for the first time. I have had the opportunity to travel to Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Was excited to see Iceland. And I chanced upon an article on Friluftsliv ! Pronounced “free-loofts-liv,” it is a Swedish/Norwegian word that directly translates as ‘Free Air Life’. It is, simply put, the process of spending time outdoors and enjoying nature.
This philosophy, conceptualized approximately 150 years ago, basically captures the notion that returning to nature is coming home. It is a way of living – and an essential and obvious part of the lifestyles of most Scandinavians.
They love outdoor living so much, that there is no concept of bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. No matter how harsh the climate, how low the temperature, how chilly the winds, it will not deter them from going outdoors. You will find the Scandinavians running, walking, hiking, skiing through the year.
This concept of Friluftsliv is also an integral aspect of the Nordic diet. It puts an emphasis on the use of seasonal and locally-produced ingredients – back to nature.
Any camping, backpacking, skiing or hiking expeditions would readily qualify as friluftsliv. However, I would go ahead and say any outdoor activity that involves body movement would qualify ie walking on a beach, walking in a forest, swimming in a lake, or just a walk outdoors .
Inspired by Friluftsliv, the latest fitness craze in the West is ‘ Nordic Walking’.
Nordic walking is a total body version of walking that can be enjoyed both by non-athletes as a health-promoting physical activity, and by athletes as a sport. The activity is performed with specially designed walking poles similar to ski poles.
There is something that the Nordic people are doing right. Life expectancy in the Scandinavian countries today is in the high 80s. And they are ranked as amongst the ‘happiest’ countries in the world.
I live in a big city, a bustling metropolis, a concrete jungle. For daily exercise I do the treadmill. The 10 days I spent in Iceland I did not go to a gym. I spent all my time outdoors, walking, hiking everyday. And I felt fresh and energetic and healthy, never tired inspite of walking the whole day. My mind was active too. I felt alive.
Aah Friluftsliv !
Recent research has shown the positive benefits of outdoor activity on children, students , young and older people. It is not only physical, but has a positive emotional, social and mental impact. Performing physical activities while outdoors provides a way to get outside and enjoy your natural surroundings. Aside from breathing fresh air and discovering nature’s many wonders, the outdoors provides various activities to keep you wanting to go back outside for more and helps keep you and your family physically and mentally healthy.
Some companies are encouraging their employees to have outdoor walking meetings with colleagues whenever possible. They also provide facilities for employees to access outdoor recreation activities.
A true follower of friluftsliv will do their best to ‘ move ‘ as much as they can every day.
One can easily incorporate friluftsliv into ones life simply by spending time outdoors.
Make your body the ”central tool” to be used everyday.
Go. Move. Begin by exploring your city by foot, walk to that next meeting on foot, or get off the bus a stop earlier than usual, and always, always take the stairs.