With a life expectancy of 82.9 years for women and 79.4 years for men, one of the highest in the world, and a comprehensive health-care system, Icelanders are setting a good example for the rest of us.  Icelanders credit their many geothermal pools and spas with longevity and swimming is even given as a mandatory course in many primary schools to help embed this practice in their culture.

I recently visited Iceland and its many natural baths and health spas.  In a country where everything is fueled by geothermal gas, Iceland boasts countless geothermal pools and hot-pots.  The most famous of these, the Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik, allows you to sample mud masks, creams and skin care products while you lounge in the bright blue glacier water.

Many visitors to the Blue Lagoon are pensioner tourists who come to take advantage of the medicinal benefits and relax in the pool.

It’s hard to say whether the baths are the answer to living longer in Iceland, but many of the Day Care facilities for seniors continue to encourage the use of pools and even offer free entry for residents aged 67 and above. Aside from offering health benefits, the pools also serve as a place of socializing and help prevent loneliness among seniors.

Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik, Iceland

This tradition of bath houses as medicine is not a new phenomenon.  Other cultures share in these traditions. In Russian tradition, it is widely believed that the steam bath has positive effects on the skin, lungs, nasal passages, joints and metabolism.  Veniki (brooms made out of leaves) are used in the baths to improve circulation.

In Arab communities, the hammam has been hailed as a source for relieving stress, relaxing muscles, easing respiratory problems and improving the skin.