Why Scandinavians Are So Healthy

Single digit temperatures (or lower) are the norm in much of Scandinavia during winter. Even so, almost all Scandinavian cities are designed for easy biking and walking. “In Copenhagen, 50 percent of the locals commute to work by bike daily and another 25 percent walk or use a combination of public transportation and walking,” says Oerum. And it doesn’t matter what the weather is like, according to Denmark’s official website. Even in the snow, sleet, or freezing cold, you’ll see more people biking to their destinations than you will see taking public transportation. Find out the most bike-friendly cities in every single U.S. state.


Scandinavian people take a moderate approach to all things in life—from food to work. This way of living is called lagom, and is a large part of Nordic philosophy. It may also be a reason why Scandinavian countries are as healthy as they are, says Westman. “Lagom is an idea of ‘just the right amount,’ meaning, you don’t restrict anything, but also don’t have anything in excess. Lagom applies to all areas of life,” she explains. Learn all about the benefits of lagom.


The next time you pass up the sauna in your gym, you just might want to rethink your quick post-workout getaway. Scandinavians are more than obsessed with saunas—in fact, there are over 2.2 million in Finland alone! This feel-good obsession is steeped in science as well as sweat—a study done by scientists at the University of Eastern Finland found that a 30-minute sauna reduced blood pressure and increased heart rates to levels comparable with moderate exercise. Saunas also help you sweat out toxins and alleviate stress.


Scandinavians also believe that junk food is, well, junk. “Out of all the countries, the U.S. and U.K. take the top spots for consuming the most junk food, including pizza, and deep-fried foods. Swedes consume the least, an easy-to-nab habit, which contributes greatly to their health,” adds Frida Harju Westman, in-house nutritionist for Scandinavian health app, Lifesum. Find out the surprising foods that Swedes, and healthy people from countries around the world, eat for breakfast.


The Scandi diet is big on reducing starchy carbs and replacing those calories with heaping servings of healthy proteins, such as locally-sourced, cold-water fish, and organic vegetables. Just as importantly, Scandinavians believe it’s not just what you eat that counts, it’s how you prepare it that matters too. “Cooking is a major part of the Scandinavian culture and something kids are taught to do from an early age. Combined with almost-universal access to fresh produce and fish, Scandinavians generally eat healthier than most Americans,” says Christel Oerum, a diabetes advocate and Danish-expat living in Los Angeles.