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Body hardening – a good idea?

What can we learn from the Viking nation? Let's discover the Danish way of body hardening.

Photographs: Pexels

Text: Natália Šepitková

As one Danish saying goes: Der findes intet der hedder dårligt vejr, kun dårligt påklædning! There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing). Danes are not afraid of cold weather at all. Body hardening is an essential part of their lifestyle. When I came to Denmark from Slovakia, I always wore a thick sweater, even in summer. I felt that it was incredibly cold here. After four years of living in Denmark, I have started to be perfectly okay with the weather and can also enjoy the cooler Danish summers. Okay, winter is still hard for me sometimes, not because of the temperature but because of the lack of daylight.

Danes are, for me, inspirational on how to live happily in lousy weather. Cold, wind, and rain would not spoil their day or change their plans. They will participate in any weather when they feel like going for a walk. It is the same with cycling. Since a bicycle is an equivalent means of transport, they use it for recreational purposes and daily transportation to work or school. And, of course, in any weather. Even if it is cold, snowing or raining heavily, the Danes will still cycle – nothing stops them!

Leave the kids in the fresh air

Hardening is so natural for the Danes that they also teach their children at an early age. Danish parents commonly put their babies in strollers for a nap outdoors because babies get better sleep while exposed to fresh air, which can significantly improve their immunity.

Parents in Nordic countries also prioritise maximising a child's time outdoors. Kids in my daughter's kindergarten usually play outside for 3 hours daily in any weather. At first, it was such a challenge for my daughter, but now, she is used to it.

Danish parents don't dress their kids in many clothes, but their kids wear more functional garments. For example, mandatory equipment for a kindergartener is a waterproof overall, rubber boots and thermal clothing. In winter, of course, a waterproof thermal overall, winter boots, gloves and a hat. Adults also wear lighter clothing and prefer to layer in winter.

"Danes are, for me, daily inspiration on how to live happily in lousy weather."

Sauna as a lifestyle

Like other Scandinavian countries, the Danes also love saunas. A sauna is part of many houses or cottages (in a Danish sommerhus). If they do not own a sauna, they visit public saunas or occasionally rent one. Saunas strengthen not only their health but also the collective. They enjoy them with families, friends, partners, and small children. Many local saunas are right on the beach or at the entrance to the sea. They can thus jump directly into the cold water from the hot sauna.

Speaking of swimming in the sea, the Danes love this activity too. Even though the Danish sea is quite cold, even in the summer months - the seawater temperature around Denmark, from June to August, is between 17°C (63°F) and 22°C (72˚F). In August, this can rise in some places to around 25°C (77°F), but it is not so common. When I moved to Denmark, swimming in the sea here was impossible for me. Last September, I enjoyed the sea in Blokhus - many people in Denmark swim all year round, and for many Danes, swimming is one of the top things to do in the winter.

Why body hardening?

The benefits of hardening are indisputable. It speeds up metabolism, has a preventive effect on inflammation, optimises hormones in the body and prevents diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Hardening is also used as an alternative treatment for autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases. Several studies have also confirmed a lower incidence of respiratory diseases in people who follow this lifestyle, meaning their immune system works slightly better. Hardening increases the level of cytokines and white blood cells in the blood, and this process, if regular, accelerates the immune response.

It is good to start hardening gradually, for example, with a cold shower. First, stay under the cold stream of water for a few seconds, then extend this time with every shower. In winter, shower with cold water for a maximum of 3 minutes and in summer for 5 minutes - but never wet your head and hair. Before and after a cold shower, it is advisable to engage in light exercise. To begin with, it can be hardened even in cold air or with an open window - your body will thank you!

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