When it comes to healthy lifestyles, Icelanders swear by two things: fish oil and geothermal pools. All year around we swim and soak outdoors - rain, shine, snow or hail. Our pools are so much more than just for swimming - they’re part of our community and everyday lives. Swimming and soaking in hot tubs boosts our health magnificently in various ways.
There’s a geothermal pool with sauna, hot and cold tubs housed in about every neighbourhood in Iceland. Most of us swim a bit, then we linger in hot tubs (of various temperatures), with a quick cold dip in between, ending our regime in the sauna. Before any talk of mindful living - we were aware that our pools made us feel good and healthy. And it’s been a way of life all my life. Swimming is a part of the curriculum in grade schools - resulting in every Icelander knowing how to swim.
As a child - going to the pools after school with friends is a simple activity that becomes a lifestyle that we take with us all through life. It’s an expression of our culture that happens to hold an array of health benefits. Soaking in hot water reduces blood pressure, eases stress, keeps inflammation down, boosts metabolism, elevates our moods and nourishes our souls.
There are beautiful hot springs and spas across Iceland and I love visiting them when traveling our country, as well as swimming through lakes and taking a quick dip in the ocean - but it’s the local pools that are built in our veins through and through. Any day of the year we seek the outdoor pools for health and community. And there tends to be one hot tub within every neighbourhood pool where a group of mature locals chat about current affairs and culture.
The pools have just opened again after being closed due to Covid-19 and Icelanders are flocking for their neighbourhood soak. I surely have missed it - being without the traditional dip for a couple of months isn’t ideal. And apparently there were a few people that were going through intense pool withdrawal and attempted break ins (ha ha).
With the pools reopening and the weather allowing shorter layers of clothing I’m reminded to actively exfoliate my body, which I do at home before I shower or soak in the bathtub. Mjúk (Icelandic word for soft) is the name of our body scrub and I cannot emphasise enough how rejuvenating it is to get back to the ritual of exfoliating and inviting my skin to feel vibrantly smooth.
Ps. When you’re here - make sure you follow the etiquette of bathing before entering the pool. If you ignore those rules - you’re at high risk of being yelled at by a local.