What does Sweden’s glowing reputation for happy, healthy citizens and affordable, DIY-assembled furniture have to do with each other? Maybe it comes down to the nations out of the box approach to fitness.
Sweden is the self-professed workout capital of Europe, with a new Eurobarometer poll reporting that seven out of 10 Swedes hit the gym weekly. This is in stark contrast to many of its European counterparts; 78% of Bulgarians and 64% of Maltese, for example, confess to never working out at all. Only 9% of Swedes say they never work out.
Here’s a quick overview of Sweden’s fitness culture, and the five workout trends that are keeping Swedes moving all year long—even during the country’s notoriously bitter winters.
Sweden’s workout culture
Despite its marathon-long winters, Sweden consistently ranks as one of the world’s healthiest nations, boasting the longest life expectancies and the most frequent workout sessions.
Swedes take working out very seriously. Nearly one third of Swedes in a recent study said they were a member of a health club. And their dedication doesn’t stop there: one in five Swedes said they also volunteer at health clubs as coaches or by contributing to the maintenance of their gyms. This hard work pays off in spades. The nation’s life expectancy is a whopping 81 for men and 84 for women. Given all this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Sweden is locked in a three-way tie to be the healthiest country worldwide.
The most popular workouts in Sweden
As any gym-goer will tell you, one of the most difficult parts of working out is finding the motivation to show up. But Sweden seems to have plenty of enthusiasm for exercise, which stems from unique workouts that keep things fresh. Here are five unique fitness trends that Swedes can’t get enough of in 2018.
- Plogging: “Plogging” is a combination of jogging and the Swedish phrase plocka upp, which translates to “pick up.” As its memorable name implies, plogging essentially means taking a run while also picking up trash and storing it in a bag for later recycling or disposal. Ploggers can amplify their caloric burn by transforming the simple act of leaning down to pick up trash into a lunge or squat. According to workout app Lifesum, a typical plogger will burn about 288 calories in 30 minutes—roughly the same amount of calories burned while jogging, only with much more feel-good environmental impact.
- BounceFit: No matter how down you’re feeling, you’ll always want to show up to BounceFit class. Guaranteed. BounceFit is high-intensity trampoline bouncing for adults. Additional twists and moves make a fun activity a core-chiseling workout. You can try not to smile while flying through the air, but these workouts will get your spirits as high as your heart rate.
- CrossFit: It’s not just America that’s infatuated with picking up tires and throwing them. Sweden is head over heels for CrossFit across all stratums of society. Some CEOs are so impressed by the work ethic of CrossFit that they’ve coined the phrase “fitness leadership.” Henrik Bunge is one such CEO, although he prefers the term “Head Coach.” Bunge’s work environments take direct inspiration from fitness, with mandatory exercise classes and employee productivity strategies that draw from athletes’ abilities to monitor self-performance. Bunge seems to be on to something, as numerous studies have established positive links cognitive performance and physical exercise. While the staff turnover increased from 8% to 25% under Bunge’s fitness leadership, the ones that have stuck by their coach seem enthused by his methods.
- Lake Swimming: Some of the best exercise can be found in nature. Sweden is blessed with water surrounding it on all sides, and many citizens take advantage of this on a daily basis—no matter the sub-Arctic temperatures.
- Cross-Country Skiing: This is yet another workout indigenous, and even essential, to Swedish life. While cross-country skiing may be recreational for some Swedes, others live in such snowy conditions that the full body, calorie torching workout is simply a sensible means of transportation. No matter the intent, all skiers benefit from the same improved cardiovascular health, lowered stress levels and all-natural aerobic endurance.
Would all of these trends fly in America? Maybe some, maybe not others. But given that Swedes are renowned for their health and good spirits, we should take it upon ourselves to at least explore the fitness routines that keep them fit and active—even during those harsh, endless winters.