Lili – July 2, 2018

I’m never quite sure what my friend Britta has been up to when I pay my now weekly visit to her at The Danish Home. Sometimes it’s baking; other times it’s a trip out for ice cream or, last month, a highly competitive game of bunco. When I arrived last week, she had just finished her daily exercise session, Morning Stretch.

“I was always very active in my youth,” Britta told me. “Obviously, I haven’t gone for a run for some time, but you’d be surprised at the difference a daily routine of stretching makes to these tired muscles. Not only do I feel energized, but it’s a lot of fun working out with my friends.”

I already knew not to visit until late morning on Tuesdays because that’s when residents can practice chair yoga. Since the nearest I get to exercise is paying for my daughters’ sneakers, I must admit I was a little taken aback, but it’s not so surprising for those who live at The Danish Home because back in Denmark, fitness has always been taken very seriously.

Danish Minister for Culture Mette Bock has encouraged Danish citizens to become even more physically active.

In March, the Danish government announced an initiative to encourage even more of its citizens to participate in exercise. The Employment, Health and Culture ministries are setting up a number of task groups to find ways to increase Danes’ participation.

Minister for Culture Mette Bock said, “We generally have high levels of participation in sport in Denmark but there are some groups of society that are not part of that community, and we must work together if we want them to join in.”

Health minister Ellen Trane Norby said that people of all ages can benefit from being more active. “I think there is great potential in us becoming better at combining ideas on fitness and healthcare,” she said.

The Danes enjoy a variety of sports, with canoeing and, surprisingly, acrobatics among the most popular. Copenhagen has many canals and outdoor sea pools, and locals don’t mind using them even in the cold winter months. Aerial skills are especially popular among women who enjoy acrobatics and AcroYoga. In fact, the more common forms of yoga are soaring in popularity. Copenhagen has yoga studios all over the city and every gym offers a variety of yoga classes.

A woman performs an acrobatic stunt hanging from red ropes.

In addition to yoga, acrobatics is one of the most popular forms of exercise in Denmark. Elements of both yoga and acrobatics are used in a practice called AcroYoga.

This year’s Copenhagen Yoga Festival will take place August 24-26. The program features a huge line of classes for all ages, plus music, opportunities to buy yoga-related accessories, and a food court.

Today, six percent of Danes regularly do yoga compared to just one percent in 1993. Yoga is popular with all ages, though teens prefer to practice at the gym and seniors like evening classes. Yoga’s rising star is part of a global trend, despite the fact that it has been around for about 3,000 years.

Jack Davis, the American owner of Yogacentralen in Fredericksberg, says he has certainly noticed an increase in membership, with waiting lists for many of his classes. “It may be that Danes are looking for the spirituality missing in their lives,” he suggested.

One of the many benefits of yoga as a form of exercise is that it can be done at any age. According to AARP, a cardiologist hit the headlines nearly 40 years ago with claims that combined with good diet and exercise, yoga could reverse heart disease. Since then, research into the effects of yoga on those over 50 has mushroomed.

For people over 70, yoga can help improve balance, sharpen the mind and boost brain chemicals that can improve mood. There are also claims that it can help such conditions as arthritis and diabetes.

“You’re inspiring me,” I confessed to Britta as our visit ended. “Maybe I’ll look into a yoga class myself.”