How to Practice the Norweigian Concept of Friluftsliv (And How it Can Help You Embrace a Coronavirus Winter)

This past week Minneapolis experienced its first snowstorm of the season. After a summer of socially distanced outdoor activities, picnics, hiking, boating, and biking, this came as a stark reminder that a coronavirus winter is upon us. While you may immediately jump to thinking about hibernating until spring, Minneapolitans will be rolling out the winter bike tires, snowshoes, cross-country skis, and ice skates. We often joke here in Minneapolis (home of the Blue Zones corporate headquarters, 2020’s most bike-friendly city in the U.S., and among the country’s top location for active commuting, even in winter) that there is no bad weather, just bad clothing—and perhaps it’s in our blood.

Source: Business Insider

More Minnesotans report Scandinavian heritage than any other state and have the second-highest percentage of Norwegian (13.9%) heritage, coming only after North Dakota.

The concept of “open-air living” and embracing the outdoors regardless of the forecast is deep in our heritage. Friluftsliv, similar to the 2016 craze over Danish hygge, may just be the new buzzword of winter 2020. Friluftsliv is a Norwegian word that illustrates the commitment to celebrating time outdoors.  And it doesn’t have to be skating or skiing—it’s a long walk outside, a picnic in the backyard, a hike through the woods, a bike commute, a daily dog walks, or a drink at an outdoor heated (socially-distanced) patio.

We’ve known for quite some time that spending time outdoors can boost happiness, improve productivity, and reduce stress. Urban green space therapy has been shown to have a positive effect on health. Having a green, tree-covered area to walk has been linked to increasing longevity in the elderly. And more than the physical and psychological benefits of getting outside year-round, top epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, PhD, MPH has stated that “being outside is really a very important thing for COVID-19 because you’re getting fresh air and movement. It also turns out that being in the outside environment dissipates these aerosols very, very quickly.” There is increasing evidence that the coronavirus can linger and spread in crowded indoor areas and that infectious clouds can be dispersed with fresh air, so it remains as important as ever to be diligent in mask-wearing, social distancing, and hand washing.

4 Ways to Embrace a Coronavirus Winter

1. Dress to linger.

Make it as comfortable as possible to be outside. Layer up with fuzzy sweaters, cozy mittens, and warm scarves or blankets.

2. Put your winter boots by the door to remind you to walk daily, no matter the weather.

Creating an environment that nudges you to move naturally will help you make the healthy choice the easy choice subconsciously.

3. Aim for 10 minutes of outdoor time, then build your way up.

Studies show that humans have the ability to adapt and acclimate to cold environments with some repeated exposure.

4. Outfit your outdoor space for lower temps.

If you have access to an outdoor space, perhaps invest in a portable heat lamp, a firepit, or extra throw pillows and blankets. Continue your gardening practices with cold-hardy plants like rosemary, boxwood, and yew (depending on your growing zone).

While I may not be walking or biking to the office any time soon, I’ll be hauling out the snow gear (and buying my new puppy some mittens) so we can embrace friluftsliv and stay active this winter.

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