Forget the hygge, it’s uitwaaien time – outdoor activity in the air


On a recent Wednesday morning in December, Tess Posthumus drove about 30 minutes from her home in Amsterdam to the beach, zipped up her wet suit, grabbed her surfboard and went to sea. Just like it happened two mornings ago.

In Amsterdam, the accommodations are dense, and the beachfront openness is very therapeutic,” said Posthumus, who also owns Flying Dutchmen Cocktail and Dutch Courage, two bars in the city.


“Plus, being in cold water gives you an adrenaline rush. We’re back in lockdown, and being a bar owner, it’s so stressful. The fresh, salty air can help clear your head a lot.” does.”

Posthumus’s regular winter beach walks are a quintessential example of utwine (OUT-vwy-ehn), a Dutch word that literally translates as “out blowing”, but perhaps also as “walking in the wind”. is better understood.


Commonly used as a noun, it describes the act of performing some kind of outdoor physical activity in windy conditions. The air, as local wisdom goes, refreshes and rejuvenates you.

“It’s an old saying: ‘I’ve got to get uitwaaien.” I have to clear my head and avoid distractions for a while,” said Ari Boomsma, who owns VondelGym, a small chain of gyms in the Netherlands.

In April, I published “10,000 Steppen Boeck” (“The 10,000 Step Book”), a very fit-minded guide to Fitbit’s magic number of 30 walks, each about 10,000 steps, in urban and rural settings across the country. .


“During the pandemic, it’s become a matter of just going outside, getting some fresh air. Not much else is allowed to do except walk, run and bike. People just gave a whole new meaning to the word. Now it’s a must.” Is.”

If any nation can lay claim to the concept of better health through air, it is the Netherlands. The country has a surface area of ​​about 41,500 square kilometers (about half that of Ireland) and is incredibly flat, so there is nothing to stop any movement. The Dutch have used the wind as a power source for centuries; Windmills have long been so embedded in the society there that they are practically a national symbol. And this is hardly a nostalgic bit of history. In 2019, General Electric built the world’s most powerful offshore wind turbine, almost as tall as the Eiffel Tower, in the port of Rotterdam.


The Uitwaaien is one of several exotic concepts that have gained attention recently. Last winter, friluftsliv (FREE-loofts-liv) gained traction—the Norwegian tradition, which translates as “living in the open air,” involves embracing nature and making outdoor time a part of daily life. No matter what the weather. It turned out to be a very suitable strategy for dealing with our allied pandemic life and seasonal sadness.

Before that, around 2015, hygge (HUE-guh) made its way into the collective consciousness – ever so slowly. The Danish concept, which is not tied to nature, but is nonetheless an approach to the management of winter blah, does not have an exact English translation. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “a quality”. A feeling of comfort and ease that produces a sense of comfort or well-being. (Think: wool socks, hot cocoa, a fireplace.) In 2016, the word made the Oxford Language’s shortlist for “Word of the Year.”

A growing field of study, widely known as ecological psychology, suggests that the health benefits of outdoor time are more than just New Age mumbo jumbo. Professor Emerita Nalini Nadkarni in the University of Utah School of Biological Sciences points to Shinrin-Yoku as an example of how nature’s healing properties are supported by empirical data.

The Japanese phrase, coined by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in 1982, translates as “forest bathing” or “taking in a forest environment”, and studies show that people who live in a forest environment They exhibit low blood pressure, pulse. rate and cortisol concentration compared to people in an urban setting.

Nadkarni, who co-founded Nature, said, “The more we understand the interaction between humans and nature, the more we realize the benefits it can have – physical, mental and emotional – such as stress reduction.” and positive effects on ADHD and depression.” and Human Health – Utah.

The group, a collaboration between academia and members of the local community, such as park rangers and arborists, studies and promotes the relationship between nature and human health.

“There’s an awareness that exists in other countries with health and medical management systems that we don’t know about in the West, and with more and more literature in real science with solidly reproducible results, we now feel do that they can be very effective,” she said.

According to David Strayer, a professor of cognition and neuroscience at the University of Utah who specializes in studying nature’s effects on focus and attention, Utwine’s therapeutic effects align with attention restoration theory.

The theory, which explains how nature resets cognition, relies on the concept of surrounding activity that captures your attention but doesn’t monopolize it—a gentle breeze-like activity.

“It’s something you don’t get when you look at a still picture, but if the wind blows leaves, or the water is blowing or there’s fire or waves on the beach, it gently draws attention to you. Enough to keep busy and looking at it, but not enough that you have to concentrate or multitask,” Strayer said. “Air is one of the essential elements – earth, wind and fire – and is part of the natural environment. As part of the wild, it helps us land in the environment in which humans have evolved.”

Like all lifestyles, the uitwaaien has its casual takers and more extreme devotees. Wim Hof, the Dutch fitness expert and extreme athlete known as Iceman, sits on the committed end of the spectrum and has his own beliefs about why it is a beneficial exercise.

Hoff created the Wim Hoff Method, a blend of breathing techniques and meditation that trains the body to tolerate cold temperatures and cold water. He holds 26 world records, 18 of which are Guinness World Records, including fastest half-marathon run while barefoot on ice or snow (2 hours, 16 minutes, 34 seconds) and longest neck in an ice bath. -Deep Dip (122 min) He has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 28 hours in shorts and shoes.

But his practice is neither supernatural ability nor new age cleverness. For years, he worked with doctors and researchers at universities in the Netherlands and the United States to demonstrate empirically how his particular style of breathing exercise fights inflammation, improves heart health, boosts the immune system, and boosts the immune system. It can help maintain high pH levels in the bloodstream. Coping with trauma and depression and controlling pain, among other things.

Air, he says, is inextricably linked to how we engage with our physiology and achieve optimal health.

“We have a physical body, but it’s like a radio: it receives and sends signals. And the carrier is air. Air is able to change our biochemistry deep within our bodies for the better,” Hoffa said. he said.

“The air provides gas exchange between our outside and inside. How do we control it? By breathing, letting air into our bodies. This is the foundation of health.”

© Washington Post