A Fitness Lover's Guide to Sweden, one of the World's Healthiest Countries

Stockholm's TunnelRun | © Niklas/Courtesy of LidingöLoppet
Stockholm's TunnelRun | © Niklas/Courtesy of LidingöLoppet
Photo of Judi Lembke
6 May 2017

Swedes takes their fitness seriously, working out more than any country in Europe; and Sweden is regularly named as one of the healthiest—if not the healthiest country—in the world. Here are some of the ways the Swedes are able to stay so fit.

First off, 7 out of 10 Swedes report that they hit the gym or engage in some sort of sporting activity weekly, with just nine percent saying they never do a jot of exercise. And while Swedes are willing to pay to keep fit, they don’t necessarily have to. All over the country there are easily-accessible, well-maintained wooden-outdoor gyms—and plenty of people take advantage of them. Whether they’re out for a run or a bike ride, Swedes often stop along the path and do 15 or 30 minutes of resistance training before carrying on with the cardio.

Outdoor gyms are readily available in Sweden | ©CucombreLibre / Flickr

If outdoor activity isn’t your thing, there are plenty of gyms, yoga studios, swimming halls, and pretty much any other kind of fitness activity around. Most town centres across the country have at least a SATS, one of the most popular gym chains in the country, along with swimming pools, and other fitness centres. In fact, there are municipality-run fitness centres all over Sweden that offer active classes for all ages as well as gyms, pools, and the ubiquitous Swedish sauna.

Rechage in a Swedish sauna | ©Thomas Wanhoff / Flickr

Ah yes, the legendary Swedish sauna. They’re plentiful and while some people might casually drape a towel around the pertinent bits, most go in the sauna naked as they steam their skin and take the time to ease those muscles sore from exercise. It’s a healthy way to de-stress, and quite a few people have a home sauna of some sort. Every gym has one as does every swimming hall—the one at Eriksdalsbadet in Stockholm is particularly popular. There are even plenty of free outdoor ones, such as the prize-winning one in Gothenburg’s harbor. In the winter, guests run from the sauna out into the snow, roll around a bit, and then run back into the warmth of the wooden room.

Thousands take part in Stockholm's Midnattsloppet | ©Staffan Vilcans / Flickr

Another reason Swedes keep so fit is because they’re competitive when it comes to sports. Nearly every kid belongs to some sort of sports team or club, whether that’s footy, swimming, tennis. This mindset continues into adulthood. There are regular races, such as Midnattsloppet, a midnight marathon that snakes through the city, and Lidingöloppet, in which nearly 30 thousand runners take part each year. There’s also the Stockholm TunnelRun (taking people through the subway system) and the fantastic Stockholm Marathon.

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Swedes are big on biking. In fact, Malmö has been named one of the 20 most bike friendly cities in the world, and the bike friendliness extends across the country. Biking is so popular that most bigger cities have a bike-sharing program in place as well as plenty of bike paths that facilitate biking.

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And finally, don’t forget that while Swedes love their sweets, they generally follow a very healthy diet that is big on fish—particularly salmon—veg, fruit, and nuts. If you get out there and exercise in any way you can and eat like a true Nord, you too can be fit like the Swedes.

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